0737 GMT November 22, 2019
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday that Paris will do its best to keep the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers alive.
“Reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency indicate Iran’s full compliance (with the deal) and France will put in all its efforts to preserve the JCPOA,” Le Drian said as he met Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran.
Le Drian said Europe regards the JCPOA as a key agreement in maintaining security and stability of the Middle East.
“Iran and France can have good cooperation… in resolving regional crises,” he said.
Le Drian said trade and economic cooperation between France and Iran has considerably increased over the past two years after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) took force.
“We are willing to expand relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he added.
President Rouhani warned against undermining the nuclear agreement, saying if the JCPOA is scuttled, that would mean political negotiation is a waste of time.
“The continuation of the JCPOA would prove to the world that negotiation and diplomacy are the best options for overcoming problems,” Rouhani said.
He said the collapse of the JCPOA would be “a regret for all.”
Europe’s pressure on US
Earlier in the day, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with Le Drian. Zarif told his French counterpart that Europe needs to play a “more constructive role” in preserving the nuclear deal.
"Europe must put the US under pressure to implement its commitments and not allow the US to make illogical and unlawful demands despite its lack of commitment and violations [of its obligations]," Zarif said.
He added that the nuclear deal is a multilateral agreement reached in cooperation with Europe.
The Iranian top diplomat, however said the agreement is being undermined by the US “illogical games” and “politically-motivated actions”.
He said all sides need to equally strive to keep the accord alive, adding that “supporting (the deal) in words is not enough”.
“If the international community is going to try to appease one side into remaining in the nuclear deal, that side should be Iran not the US,” Zarid said.
He said the US has not only backed down on its promises, but also has obstructed Europe in undertaking its obligations regarding the deal.
Zarif said Iran has been complying with the JCPOA since it came into force in 2016 and that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has approved Iran’s compliance in ten reports.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly described the JCPOA, which was negotiated under his predecessor, Barack Obama, as “the worst and most one-sided transaction Washington has ever entered into,” a characterization he often used during his presidential campaign, and threatened to tear it up.
Trump has threatened to pull out of the JCPOA unless Congress and America's European allies help "fix" it with a follow-up agreement within a 120-day deadline.
Referring to earlier remarks by the French foreign minister about Iran's ballistic missile program, Zarif said the JCPOA and the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorses the deal, do not involve the Islamic Republic's missile capabilities.
“Iran’s military might is for defending the country and for deterrence.”
"The US and other countries that have turned our region into a powder keg by selling weapons must stop such measures," the Iranian foreign minister stated.
Ahead of his visit, Le Drian had said Iran should address "concerns" over its ballistic missile program or risk new sanctions.
“There are ballistic programs of missiles that can reach several thousand kilometers which are not compatible with UN Security Council resolutions and exceed the sole need of defending Iran’s borders,” he told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper. “If not tackled head-on, this country risks new sanctions.”
France’s firm belief in JCPOA
Le Drian said France has “firmly believe in implementing the JCPOA” and has taken “multiple practical steps” to execute it including investment in Iran’s energy sector and auto industry.
He added that Paris has had “good cooperation” in establishing banking relations with Tehran and investment by French companies in Iran has been “remarkable” in the wake of the nuclear agreement.
“Europe and France in particular are committed and willing to implement the JCPOA despite the US pressure,” Le Drian pointed out.
In 2017, France was Iran's second biggest trade partner in the European Union. According to the French Treasury, Iran's trade exchanges with France stood at €3.8 billion last year.
Since the lifting of the sanctions in January 2016, French automakers have piled into Iran’s resurgent market, helping turn around a period of slipping sales which occurred when they left the country in 2012.
Also, France's oil and gas company Total has signed an agreement worth $4.8 billion for the development of South Pars Phase 11.