French foreign minister to visit Tehran in sign of post-deal thaw
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French foreign minister to visit Tehran in sign of post-deal thaw

Laurent Fabius says possibility of renewing trade is major bonus of agreement, but insists it did not sway support for nuclear accord

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius addresses the media in front of the Palais Coburg Hotel, the venue of the nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria on June 27, 2015 (Christian Bruna/AFP)
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius addresses the media in front of the Palais Coburg Hotel, the venue of the nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria on June 27, 2015 (Christian Bruna/AFP)

France’s foreign minister said Wednesday he had accepted an invitation to visit Iran after the deal on its nuclear program but did not give a date for the trip.

Laurent Fabius said his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif had “reinvited” him as the deal was clinched on Tuesday.

“I told him I would go to Iran so I will go to Iran,” Fabius told French radio.

France was considered the most skeptical of the six world powers negotiating the deal, but Fabius told newspaper Le Monde that the pact to curb Iran’s nuclear program was “sufficiently robust” to last 10 years.

Fabius noted that French firms were “very well thought of” in Iran but denied the nuclear deal was struck with an eye on business.

“Trade is very important. It fosters growth. It’s important for the Iranians, it’s important for us,” he said.

“But when the president of the Republic [Francois Hollande] and I took the strategic decision [to agree to a deal] … we did not take it for commercial reasons, but for strategic reasons because we wanted to avoid nuclear proliferation,” stressed the minister.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (C), the Head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi (L) and Hossein Fereydoon (R), brother and close aide to President Hassan Rouhani, are pictured during a meeting with the US Secretary of State in Vienna on July 3, 2015 (AFP/POOL/CARLOS BARRIA)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (C), the Head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi (L) and Hossein Fereydoon (R), brother and close aide to President Hassan Rouhani, are pictured during a meeting with the US Secretary of State in Vienna on July 3, 2015 (AFP/POOL/CARLOS BARRIA)

France used to have a strong presence in Iran before the sanctions went into effect, with Peugeot and Renault being major players in the Iranian auto industry and energy giant Total heavily involved in the oil sector.

But two-way trade has fallen from four billion euros ($4.4 billion) in 2004 to just 500 million euros in 2013, according to French statistics.

The French employers’ federation, MEDEF, is due to visit Iran in September to try to kickstart ties.

Some 107 representatives from the body traveled to Iran early last year, triggering anger in the US which said it was still too early to do business with Tehran.

But the 2014 visit came hot on the heels of delegations from Italy, Germany, Austria, Portugal and South Korea.

An agreement on Iran’s nuclear program was announced in Vienna on Tuesday. The deal will see international sanctions against Iran lifted, in return for pledges by the Islamic Republic to give up most of its uranium stocks and allow inspections of its nuclear sites by international monitors.

According to Israel Radio, the UN Security Council will discuss the lifting of sanctions as early as next week.

Israel lobbied strongly against the deal throughout negotiations, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it on Tuesday a “historic mistake” and insisting that the deal will not prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

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