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Tehran to counter Trump’s sanctions by turning to Moscow to renew its fleet of passenger planes

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Teheran (AsiaNews) – Iran is on the verge of a deal with Russia to buy one hundred Sukhoi Superjet 100 passenger planes. This will allow Tehran to get around sanctions imposed by the United States and the West whilst renewing its aging unsafe fleet.

The announcement came from Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, who stressed that negotiations are well underway.

If concluded positively, they would allow the Islamic Republic to limit the impact of any cancelled deals with US-based Boeing and EU-based Airbus.

Last month, an SSJ-100 landed in Tehran for careful assessment by Iranian technicians. The 108-seat twin-engine is one of the candidates to renew a fleet that has had several fatal accidents in recent times due to aging planes, dubbed ‘flying coffins’, and poor maintenance, largely because of US sanctions.

“[W]e discussed the possibility of Sukhoi Superjet 100 purchase by our Iranian partners and outlined a plan of how this can be put it into practice,” Russian media quoted Novak as saying.

At present, the two sides are looking into the practical aspects of any future partnership in the civil aviation industry.

The minister spoke after a joint commission meeting of the two countries’ officials, stating that the two sides have also agreed on the sale of Russian-made vehicles, like KAMAZ and UAZ buses and trucks, to Iran.

Tehran and Moscow are also working to sign free trade documents between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union countries possibly in May, a step expected to “trigger further development of our bilateral trade and expansion of investment cooperation,” Novak said.

According to the Russian minister, bilateral trade in 2017 stood at .7 billion, but “there are still unresolved issues”, such as simplifying the calculation procedures.

In 2016, a year after the signing of the Iranian nuclear agreement (JCPOA), then US President Barack Obama lifted the ban on the sale of civilian aircrafts to Iran.

This enabled Iran to sign billion dollar deals with US aviation giant Boeing as well as the latter’s main European competitor, Airbus, for the purchase of hundreds of aircrafts to renew part of its fleet.

As the new US administration under Donald Trump could scrap the nuclear deal in the coming months, lifted sanctions would be re-imposed.

Currently, the White House is currently evaluating whether to allow the sale of 80 Boeing to Iran Air, but its actions could also affect the sale of 100 passenger planes by Boeing’s main competitor, Europe’s Airbus.

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