Sanctions gone, Iran kicks off EU trade drive in Poland

Warsaw (AFP) –


Iran's foreign minister kicked off an EU trade drive in Poland on Sunday, in one of Tehran's first moves to drum up business with the West after the lifting of sanctions earlier this year.

Javad Zarif is also expected to travel to EU members Finland, Sweden before winding up his trip in Latvia on June 2.

"I'm convinced that our (Warsaw) ambassador's wish for our annual bilateral turnover to reach one billion dollars will come true," Zarif told a joint press conference with his Polish counterpart Witold Waszczykowski.

Annual bilateral trade between Poland and Iran has stood at around just $70 million (62 million euros) in recent years due to international sanctions over Iran's nuclear programme.

Sanctions were lifted under the historic nuclear deal that Iran signed with world powers last year and which came into force in January.

Iran has since launched a campaign to boost trade, and major Western powers said on May 20 that they back doing business with Tehran.

Travelling with a mostly private sector Iranian business delegation in tow, Zarif is due to attend a Polish-Iranian business forum in Warsaw on Monday.

"We've always felt that Iran was part of the solution, not part of the problem," said Waszczykowski, a former ambassador to Tehran.

"After years of marginalisation and even ostracism, Iran is coming back to the international stage as an important partner -- an important player that will influence positive global solutions," Waszczykowski said.

Earlier the two ministers signed a memorandum of understanding on bilateral political cooperation.

Zarif's arrival in Warsaw comes just a week after he insisted the US needed to take concrete steps to encourage investors to engage with Tehran.

Despite the lifting of most sanctions, the US has maintained those targeting Tehran's alleged sponsorship of armed movements in the Middle East and its ballistic missile programme.

European banks, which often have subsidiaries on US soil, have therefore been slow to resume business with Iran, fearing prosecution in the US.

But a joint statement by the United States, the European Union, France, Britain and Germany issued May 20 said foreign banks and businesses should not hold back from conducting legal business with Iran.