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U.S. Diplomat: Boeing Deal Shows It's 'Possible To Do Business With Iran'

June 23, 2016

A U.S. official says a tentative deal between aerospace giant Boeing and Iran demonstrates that Tehran is open for business following the easing of sanctions under a nuclear agreement with world powers.

Leslie Tsou, senior adviser on Iran at the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, said in a June 23 interview that the Boeing deal announced this week shows "it is possible to do business with Iran" despite companies' concerns about U.S. sanctions that remain in place.

The nuclear deal signed last year to curb Iran's nuclear program has opened up Iran's economy, though Washington continues to maintain some sanctions against Tehran, which it accuses of human rights violations and supporting terrorism.

"Our sanctions, we know, can be complicated, and I think many companies and business people are worried about that," Tsou told RFE/RL Armenian Service Director Harry Tamrazian in Yerevan.

"But as this deal shows, it can happen even with an American company," she added.

The tentative agreement for Iran Air to purchase Boeing aircraft is estimated to be worth as much as $25 billion. Boeing says that "any and all contracts with Iran's airlines will be contingent upon U.S. government approval."

Tsou said that Boeing "has been consulting with the U.S. government regularly and will continue to do so as it goes forward."

She added that because the lifting of sanctions under landmark nuclear deal signed in July 2015 only happened in January, "we're still processing in many ways how our relationship with Iran has changed."

"We haven't really had relations at all since 1979. And that's a long time not to speak to a country," Tsou said. "But, you know, enemies don't need to be enemies forever. We recognize that perhaps not everyone in Iran agrees with that."

Despite the broader easing of tensions between Tehran and the West in the aftermath of the nuclear deal, Tsou said there had been "no easing of our visa restrictions" for Iranians who wish to visit the United States.

"It's true that many Iranians are able to get visas to the United States. It takes a long time sometimes, but they are able to come to the United States to study, for tourism, to visit family, for whatever reason. And we anticipate that more will want to come, and we're extremely eager to have them come," she said.

Tsou said that while Washington had not seen "an improvement" in the human rights situation in Iran, the United States "has no quarrel with the Iranian people."

"The attitudes of the American people toward the Iranian people is one of friendship, and so we are concerned about the way that the government treats its minority populations, its women, and just generally how it treats its people," she said.

"We do hope that over time that will also improve so that we can take off our sanctions that are related to human rights," Tsou added.


Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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