Brussels is to grant Iran's flag carrier more access to the European market after it passed a new safety assessment. Most of the airline's jets were banned from the EU's skies in 2010.
The European Commission confirmed the partial lifting of a ban on Iran Air on Thursday. The step will allow most of the airline's planes to fly in and out of EU territory, except its fleets of Boeing 747-200s, Boeing 747SPs and Fokker 100s.
"I am happy to announce that we are now also able to allow most aircraft from Iran Air back into European skies," said EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc. The Commission said the decision followed a visit to Iran by the EU executive in April.
In 2010, the carrier was restricted to operating just 12 of its 43 aircraft after airport inspections revealed serious safety problems.
The deal comes as the Tehran government dangles the prospect of significant business for Western plane makers now that decades of sanctions have been lifted.
Iran needs an estimated 400 jets to renew its fleet and prepare for projected growth, according to Iranian and Western estimates. Iran Air concluded a deal with Boeing on Tuesday that will see the purchase of the first new US aircraft in decades.
The Iranian flag carrier also agreed in January to buy 118 jets worth $27 billion from Airbus and is discussing further orders with the European plane maker.
Relations between Iran and Europe have thawed in the wake of a deal that Tehran concluded with world powers last year to curb its nuclear activities. The agreement allowed the once-pariah state to re-emerge on the world stage, amid a rush to invest in the country.
Despite criticism that the lifting of the ban was due to commercial interests, EU officials have insisted that the decision was driven solely by safety considerations.
Other bans reviewed
Also Thursday, the European Commission cleared the way for all Zambian airlines to operate in European airspace, along with Air Madagascar and the Indonesian airlines Citilink, Lion Air and Batik Air. The carriers had previously been blacklisted due to safety issues.
More than 200 airlines are still prohibited from operating in European skies, while a further six carriers have had some of their aircraft banned.
mm/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)