Austria signs business deals with Iran during president's visit

GMT 05:28 2015 Thursday ,10 September

Arab Today, arab today Austria signs business deals with Iran during president's visit

President Heinz Fischer
Vienna - XINHUA

An Austrian delegation led by President Heinz Fischer concluded a three-day official visit to Iran on Wednesday, signing a number of business deals along with academic agreements to boost bilateral cooperation.

As part of the first visit to Tehran from an EU head of state since 2004, Fischer's visit signalled a further thawing of relations between Iran and the West, particularly since Iran came to agreement to curb its nuclear program as part of a nuclear deal reached with world powers in July.

The visiting delegation had a strong business contingent, including companies such as OMV, Raiffeisen and Erste Bank.

Media reported that industry deals in areas such as engineering and car parts were signed to a value of 80 million euros (about 89.6 million U.S. dollars).

Fischer said at a joint press conference with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday that he expected a 300-million-dollar boost to trade between the two nations in the short term, with an expansion in both economic and political cooperation to follow thereafter.

The Austrian president showed his willingness to visit Tehran as the first western states leader last year.

President of the Austrian Federal Economic Chambers (WKO) Christoph Leitl said the 15 signed deals and memoranda of understanding would comply with the current sanctions still in effect.

Applicable companies would wait for the nuclear agreement to come into effect and sanctions to be lifted, and some were in Iran only to make contacts for potential future business dealings, Leitl said.

The WKO estimated that trade volume between the two nations could reach one billion dollars by 2020.

Scientific and academic cooperation between the two countries was also high on the agenda, with Austrian vice-chancellor and minister for science and research Reinhold Mitterlehner meeting with Iranian counterpart Mohammad Farhadi on Wednesday.

The two ministers signed 13 new cooperation agreements concerning research and tertiary education.

He said the nuclear deal would now provide a chance for "deeper relations between the two countries," Austria Press Agency reported.

Mitterlehner also noted that there are currently over 1,700 Iranians studying at Austrian tertiary institutions, and that he hopes this exchange can be expanded further.

The Austrian visit had been subject to some criticism, notably from one of the vice presidents of the European Jewish Congress, Ariel Muzicant, who prior to the visit said the high-level Austrian delegation would be "shaking hands with murderers."

Under the comprehensive deal agreed by Iran and six world major countries on July 14, Iran would improve the transparency of its nuclear plan while freezing some of its nuclear activities in exchange for sanction relief.

A number of Western countries' officials have recently visited Tehran, trying to thaw the ties following the nuclear deal.

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