Iranian Bankers Said to Meet Austrian Lenders to Resume Ties

Austrian and Iranian bankers were to meet in Vienna on Wednesday to discuss the resumption of trade financing, people familiar with the plans said.

The meeting comes after talks on Tuesday between the governors of the two nations’ central banks, Ewald Nowotny and Valiollah Seif. Austria’s top three banks Erste Group Bank AG, UniCredit Bank Austria AG and Raiffeisen Bank International AG would be among the participants, according to people, who asked not to be identified discussing the private discussions.

Major European banks have kept their distance from Iran, despite its nuclear deal with world powers, for fear of running foul of remaining U.S. sanctions. Iran’s Seif said Tuesday that progress with foreign banks has been “slow,” the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Austria, which is a member of the European Union but has remained neutral and outside of military pacts, was the first Western country to send a head of state to Iran after the nuclear agreement was secured last year. Its then president, Heinz Fischer, headed a business delegation of around 140 executives in September 2015.

Raiffeisen has been considering reopening its office in Iran, Chief Executive Officer Karl Sevelda said in January. Austria’s oil and gas producer OMV AG signed a deal with the National Iranian Oil Co. on the evaluation of fields for future development this year, which CEO Rainer Seele called an important first step in resuming OMV’s activities in Iran.

In a separate announcement Wednesday, Iran’s Central Bank said Austria’s export credit agency, Oesterreichische Kontrollbank, had agreed to raise its cover for exports to Iran to 1 billion euros from 280 million euros.

Seif, in an interview with the Austrian Press Agency, confirmed that he’ll meet with “four or five” banks in Vienna on Wednesday, adding that Iran’s relations with Austrian banks were second only to those in Italy.

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