Iranian Official Says Direct Flights Between U.S. and Iran Could Start in Just Two Months

As a new round of international talks over Iran’s nuclear program get underway in Geneva Wednesday, a senior Iranian official has said that direct flights between the U.S. and Iran could be begin in as early as two months.

Deputy Roads and Urban Development Minister Ali Mohammad Nourian told a press conference in Tehran Tuesday, “The required preparations have been made and if negotiations in the coming days move in a positive direction, we will be ready to launch the flights by the end of 2013.”

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The Iranian Tasnim News Agency quoted the deputy minister further saying that at least three Iranian airlines have the equipment to make the long-haul flight.

Nourian provided specific details about the steps Iran is taking toward the resumption of direct flights between the two countries which have not had diplomatic relations since 1980.

He said that at first charter flights would be making the trip and that commercial American and Canadian airlines have already expressed readiness to fly passengers on Boeing 777 aircraft.

Current sanctions prohibit Iranian airlines from flying to the U.S. The Times of Israel noted that the Treasury Department has pursued sanctions specifically against Iran Air.

Treasury Department Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen wrote in the New York Times last year , “Iran Air is not simply a passenger airline. Rather, Iran Air provides material support to two organizations deeply involved in Iran’s weapons proliferation — the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, which oversees Iran’s ballistic missile program, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, which orchestrates arms shipments to and from Iran. That is why, in June 2011, we imposed sanctions specifically on Iran Air.”

“Given the positive outlook of our government and the international talks, we hope that this issue is soon settled so that the Iranian fellow citizens in the U.S. could travel between the two countries with greater ease,” Nourian said.

Nourian’s prediction of imminent direct flights followed comments on Monday made by the head of Iran Air.

The official Iranian news agency IRNA reported that the managing director of Iran Air Farhad Parvaresh said the company is ready to establish direct flight routes to the U.S. using the company’s Boeing 747s. He said that Aseman and Mahan Air could also set up North American routes.

Just days after the “historic” telephone call between President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in September, the Iranian leader directed an aide to pursue resuming direct flights. Iranian expatriates in the U.S. reportedly asked Rouhani when he was visiting the United Nations in September if he could set up direct travel routes to ease their voyages to visit family.

TheBlaze on Monday reported on an Israeli television report that said Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett has over the past year been holding direct meetings with a senior Iranian official in various Persian Gulf states and that international negotiations aimed at curbing the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program are just “a facade.”

Last year, the Israeli newspaper Maariv reported that just months after he took office in 2009, Obama tried to renew diplomatic relations with Iran, including offering the opening of embassies

Quoting two diplomatic sources close to the Obama administration, Maariv reported that Iran at the time rejected the offer.

A graphic in the Maariv report detailed how renewed relations might look. Included in the graphic were direct flights between Washington or New York and Tehran and the granting of entry permits for American visitors to Iran and for Iranians to visit the U.S.

The Shiite Ahlul Bayt News Agency based in Iran on Tuesday quoted a senior official in President Rouhani’s office who insisted there has been no communication between Tehran and Washington about resuming direct flights.

The agency reported that last month the former Iranian Civil Aviation Organization chief Hamid Reza Pahlavani announced that Iran was ready to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. on direct flights.

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