Recent reports in the German weekly Der Spiegel and French daily Le Figaro have suggested that Europe is eying to pressure Iran over its missile program and/or regional policies.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who is scheduled to visit Iran, has told Le Figaro in an interview to be published Monday that Iran “must cooperate” on those two matters.
“If Iran wants to return to the concert of nations, it must cooperate on these questions,” the French foreign minister said. “Otherwise, it will with reason always be suspected of wanting to develop nuclear weapons,” he added, linking the Iranian missile program to its nuclear program.
Iran has repeatedly stated that its missile program is non-negotiable.
Reacting to the latest reports on Monday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi once again noted that Iran’s positions on its missile program and regional policies were clear and that no agenda had been set for the talks during Le Drian’s upcoming visit to Iran, either.
Qassemi said varied issues can be “discussed” with the French foreign minister but he stressed that one had to differentiate between “negotiating” and “exchanging viewpoints.”
Regarding the reports that Europe aims to increase pressure on Iran, Qassemi said the Islamic Republic had not officially heard from European authorities on such a matter.
“We have heard nothing from European officials about that, and in the negotiations that we have had with Europe, no such issue has been raised,” he said.
He added, however, that Iran would have much to talk about with the French side and that the Islamic Republic did not view such discussions as anything extraordinary.
Earlier, Qassemi had rejected a report by The Financial Times that claimed German, French, and British foreign ministers — together with Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief — had agreed during earlier talks with Iranian officials in Brussels to hold an “intensive and very serious dialogue” on the country’s conventional missile work and regional influence.
France striking the wrong chord?
Later on Monday, France’s foreign minister claimed in Brussels that Iran was violating United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015), which was ratified to endorse the international nuclear deal with Iran.
Arriving at a European foreign ministers meeting in the Belgian capital, Le Drian said European countries at the summit “will… have the opportunity of underlining our firmness on Iran’s compliance with… Resolution 2231, which limits access to ballistic capacity and which Iran does not respect.”
This is while the resolution, adopted days after the nuclear deal was finalized, puts no limits on the Iranian missile program. It merely “calls upon” Iran to refrain from activities related to ballistic missiles that are “designed to be capable of” delivering nuclear weapons.
Iran says it has no such missiles or atomic weapons, and the wording of the document does not put a legal ban on its missile activities.
The debate over the Iran nuclear deal was rekindled after the election of Donald Trump to US presidency. Long opposed to the deal, Trump recently laid out four conditions that he said would have to be met in order for the United States not to unilaterally withdraw from the deal.
The prospect of a US withdrawal has concerned European powers, which made significant political investment in the deal with Iran. But France has vacillated, apparently seeking to appease Trump, who said he wanted a “supplemental agreement” with America’s European allies “that would impose new multilateral sanctions if Iran develops or tests long-range missiles.”
The Iran deal is exclusively about Iran’s nuclear program, which has been put under enhanced international inspection in return for the termination of certain international and unilateral sanctions.