In Iran with a crucial message, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says he is a “defender” of the nuclear deal between Iran and six other countries, amid concerns that one of those countries, namely the United States, may act to breach it.
“I’m coming as the defender of the accord,” Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters after landing in Tehran, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the deal is known.
“We want this agreement to be respected,” he said, emphasizing that it was a “common interest” to sustain the accord.
Heading a senior politico-economic delegation, the French foreign minister arrived in the Iranian capital on Monday for a two-day official visit. His country was one of the six world countries that, with European Union (EU) coordination, negotiated the deal with Iran. While France several times adopted a hard line against Iran during the course of the negotiations, giving the impression that it was putting diplomatic attempts for a deal in jeopardy, Paris has been a staunch supporter of the agreement since its conclusion in July 2015.
Under the JCPOA, all nuclear-related sanctions on Iran were terminated, and Iran in return agreed to apply certain limits to its nuclear program and provide enhanced access to international monitors to its nuclear facilities.
But there has been concern recently that the US, under President Donald Trump, would violate the deal or stop implementing American commitments under the accord altogether. A self-admitted non-politician, Trump has previously threatened to rip up the deal and called it “the worst accord ever” and “one of the dumbest” ones he has come across.
In an interview with The Times, conducted after his inauguration as president, Trump, however, refused to say what he would want to do regarding the deal.
The other countries that negotiated the deal with Iran — France, the UK, Russia, China, and Germany — as well as the EU have on the other hand reaffirmed their commitment to the deal, which took some 23 months and hard diplomatic work to negotiate.
The French foreign minister also noted, “We harbor real concerns about the US administration’s attitude toward this agreement.”
France’s stakes are particularly high. French industrial behemoths Airbus, Total, Peugeot, and Renault have all signed cooperation agreements with Iran following the deal. Ayrault’s visit now is also expected to feature the signing of more economic accords.
In a rare stance taken toward the new US administration, the French foreign minister also denounced recent US bans on nationals from Iran and six other countries and said Paris would be doubling the visa quota for Iranians.
Trump on Friday signed an executive order banning the entry of citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen into the United States for 90 days over purported security concerns.
“This has nothing to do with fighting terrorism,” Ayrault told the reporters. He said he thought the order was “dangerous,” amounted to “discrimination,” and had to be revoked.
Discussing Syria on agenda
Further explaining his agenda in Tehran, he said, “We will discuss our disagreements, notably on Syria.”
During his stay, Ayrault plans to sit down with President Hassan Rouhani, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani.