French foreign minister visits Iran amid missile tensions

Marie Harrington
March 8, 2018

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said the European Union is capable of playing a constructive role in order to protect the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) aka nuclear deal.

Zarif further accused the USA of failing to fulfill its commitments under the agreement.

Europe should push the United States to adhere to its obligations under the 2015 nuclear agreement, said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday in a meeting with visiting French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in the capital Tehran.

On February 27, the top French diplomat claimed that Iran's ballistic missile program was very worrying and ran counter to a United Nations resolution.

It is the first visit by one of the European signatories to the 2015 nuclear agreement since US President Donald Trump set an ultimatum that he would abandon it in May if it was not "improved".

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano, whose agency is monitoring Iranian compliance with curbs on its disputed nuclear activity imposed by the agreement, has long called the deal a "net gain" for nuclear verification, since it has provided the IAEA with more thorough oversight of Iran.

France has ballistic missiles with ranges of more than 6,000 kilometres, which can be launched from submarines, but Le Drian said Iran was risking fresh sanctions if it did not curb its missile programme, which is now limited to 2,000 kilometres.

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A senior Iranian security official said on Monday that the missile programme of the Islamic republic is "not a threat" to any country.

Last month, an IAEA report showed that Iran was continuing to abide by the deal's key measures.

Le Drian faced immediate pushback over French concerns about Iran's ballistic missiles, starting with Iranian students waving signs at Iran's Mehrabad International Airport protesting his comments.

"The condition for negotiating Iran's missiles is the destruction of the nuclear weapons and long-range missiles of the United States and Europe", Iranian Armed Forces spokesman Masoud Jazayeri was quoted by the state news agency IRNA as saying. According to its official BNA news agency, the cell was accused of receiving training in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon.

French President Emmanuel Macron, during a March 4 phone conversation, urged Rohani to put "necessary pressure" on the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad to halt "indiscriminate" attacks on civilians in the eastern Ghouta region - a rebel-held enclave near the capital Damascus.

During his stay, Le Drian is also expected to discuss bilateral ties.

"We want to preserve the nuclear deal because it is working, it's robust and because the Iranians are respecting it", his team told AFP ahead of the visit.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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