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France attempts to save Iran nuclear deal

President of France Emmanuel Macron holds a press conference in Tunis, Tunisia on 1 February, 2018 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]
President of France Emmanuel Macron [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency, File photo]

France is leading European efforts to avert President Donald Trump from scrapping the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the accord between France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China and the United States gave Iran relief from economic sanctions in return for curbs to its nuclear programme while allowing Tehran to talk trade with Europe for the first time in years.

The deal has been put under stress since Trump’s arrival to the White House. The US President has repeatedly threatened to cancel JCPOA due to concerns over Iran’s activities in the Middle East, namely its arming of Hezbollah, and its ballistic missiles programme. All the other partners however have insisted on preserving the arrangement which is seen as being an effective barrier to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.

In the latest efforts to save the deal, French President, Emanuel Macron, is reported to have spoken to his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, of his support for the nuclear accord and his concerns over Tehran’s other activities in a telephone call yesterday.

Read: Iran rejects Macron call for talks on Iranian missiles

The call came ahead of a visit to Tehran by Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister. It’s thought that Le Drian will meet with senior officials in Tehran in reaction to Trump who has threatened to quit unless European allies help “fix” the deal.

It’s a delicate mission and France wants to be seen to be striking the balance between allaying US concerns and respecting the deal.  French diplomatic source reported Le Drian saying: “We’re not going to be Donald Trump’s envoys or Iran’s defence lawyers. We have our own concerns and will talk to the different sensibilities of the Iranian system to get our point across.”

France was one of the partners to quickly restore trade ties with Iran after the 2015 deal was struck. Plane maker Airbus, oil major Total and automobile manufacturers Peugeot and Renault have all signed deals which makes them vulnerable to any decision taken by the US administration that could jeopardise the accord.

France is hoping it can convince Washington to see the nuclear deal separately from Iran’s regional activities and missile programme. Le Drian will stress Macron’s commitment to the accord, while persuading Tehran to address US concerns on issues that are outside the deal relating to its ballistic missile programme and its allegedly destabilising role in the region, particularly in Lebanon.

Read: France says Iran’s missile programme must be put ‘under surveillance’

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