Austrian envoy dismisses reports on Oberbank’s ceasing cooperation with Iran

FNA – Austria’s Ambassador to Iran Stefan Scholz categorically dismissed some media reports that his country’s Oberbank has frozen business with the Islamic Republic, and stressed that Vienna is seeking more cooperation with Tehran.

“I can assure you that there has been no policy change on the Austrian side regarding working together with Iran to the benefit of JCPOA implementation,” Scholz said on Monday.

Scholz’ remarks came after Austria’s Die Presse in a report said that Oberbank, one of the first Western banks to sign a deal to provide finance to Iranian projects, has put projects “on hold” due to the uncertainties surrounding the Iran nuclear deal.

Oberbank, Austria’s seventh-largest bank, despite its regional focus and limited exposure to the US financial system, signed an agreement to extend a 1 billion euro line of credit to Iran in September 2017. The deal was announced to much fanfare as political uncertainty increased around the expectation that US President Donald Trump would “decertify” the nuclear deal later that October—a step the American leader did subsequently take.

The finance deal, which was signed with the express support of Iran’s central bank as well as the Austrian government, was intended to support capital-intensive infrastructure and energy projects led by Austrian companies and was earmarked for projects of over two years in duration. While Oberbank has long provided trade finance in areas that are exempt from sanctions, such as food and pharmaceuticals, the provision of project finance was considered a significant boost to Iran’s engagement with the European financial system. Denmark’s Danske Bank signed a similar agreement shortly after their Austrian peers.