Iran’s defense ministry said Saturday it planned it improve the capabilities of its ballistic and cruise missiles, on a week in which France urged Tehran to agree to negotiate over its missile program.
Mohammad Ahadi, Iran’s deputy defense minister for international affairs, also spoke of acquiring new jet fighters and submarines, state news agency IRNA reported.
“Increasing ballistic and cruise missile capacity … and the acquisition of new generation fighters and heavy and long-range vessels and submarines with various weapons capabilities are among the new plans of this ministry,” Ahadi said, according to a translation by Reuters.
Ahadi added, “Close relationships and cooperation with [Iran’s] neighbors is in the priority of the Islamic Republic.”
He said Tehran’s “approach to defense diplomacy is based on communication and interaction with all countries, minus the occupying regime of Quds” — a reference to Israel — “within the framework of the foreign policy of the country to achieve and contribute to regional and global peace and security and preventing crises.”
Iran last week unveiled what it said was a new fighter jet. The Kowsar was a “fourth-generation” fighter, with “advanced avionics” and multi-purpose radar, the Iranian news agency Tasnim said, adding that it was “100-percent indigenously made.”
But analysts quickly noted similarities between the plane and the F-5 fighter jet, made by Northrop-Grumman in the 1950s, and expressed doubts that the fighter was actually new.
On Friday Iran rejected France’s call for talks on issues beyond the nuclear dossier, saying it was impossible so long as Western powers failed to meet existing commitments.
“There is no basis of trust for negotiations, certainly on subjects which are non-negotiable,” said foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi, according to the Tasnim news agency.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday that Iran must be open to discussions on its missile program and regional interventions.
But Ghasemi said Europe must first show it can salvage the 2015 nuclear deal following the withdrawal of the United States in May and its reimposition of sanctions.
“The European authorities have up to now repeatedly stated their position but have not succeeded in presenting the necessary and sufficient guarantees that we are awaiting… to preserve the international agreement,” he said.
“The Iranian people have no other solution than to be mistrustful towards them while their commitments are not being fulfilled.”
Le Drian’s latest comments echoed some of the reasons given by US President Donald Trump for his withdrawal from the nuclear agreement.
“Iran cannot avoid discussions, negotiations on three other major subjects that worry us — the future of Iran’s nuclear commitments after 2025, the ballistic question… and the role Iran plays to stabilize the whole region,” Le Drian said in Vienna.
Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons and claims its missiles are a legitimate defense against more heavily armed rivals. The 2015 deal lifted international sanctions in exchange for curbs to Iran’s nuclear program.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said Thursday that Iran was still keeping to its commitments.
But the return of US sanctions has led most European firms to abandon projects in Iran and is already impacting its oil sales ahead of a second wave of measures targeting its energy industry in November.