In a shift of its public position, France is indicating that negotiations must be conducted over Iran’s ballistic missile program.
Responding to Donald Trump’s statements over the past two months, Paris had backed the Islamic Republic’s line that the July 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the 5+1 Powers (US, France, UK, China, Russia, and Germany) could not be reopened for revision.
However, on Thursday, President Emmanuel Macron said added that the missile program should be restricted either through talks, linked to the 2015 accord, or sanctions.
Macron’s tougher position came as he accused Iran of responsibility for a missile fired by the Ansar Allah (Houthi) insurgents, who control much of Yemen, on Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh International Airport on Saturday. He issued the statement at a news conference in the UAE before heading to Saudi Arabia on a previously unannounced visit:
There are extremely strong concerns about Iran. There are negotiations we need to start on Iran’s ballistic missiles….
Like what was done in 2015 for the nuclear activities, it’s necessary to put a framework in place for Iran’s ballistic activities and open a process, with sanctions if needed, of negotiation that would enable [that]. The missile which was intercepted by Saudi Arabia launched from Yemen, which obviously is an Iranian missile, shows precisely the strength of their [program].
Iran backs the Houthis but has rejected Western assertions that Tehran is providing military equipment.
While putting pressure on Iran, Macron reaffirmed his support for the 2105 nuclear agreement, denounced by Donald Trump as an “embarrassment”: “If we were to walk away from it, it would lead to either immediate war or an absence of control which would inevitably lead to a North Korean-situation, which I could not accept.”
He emphasized his intention to go to Iran as part of discussions.
Macron indicated talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the rising power in the Kingdom, would include “regional questions, in particular Yemen and Lebanon”.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri resigned while he was in Riyadh last weekend, collapsing the coalition government that includes Iran’s ally Hezbollah. He is still in the Kingdom, with some claiming that he is under house arrest.
Iran’s Rouhani Government has been trying to separate the European Union and European countries from Washington. State outlet Press TV led with Macron’s statement that termination of the nuclear deal would be “crazy”, but it also headlined that he “takes aim at Iran missiles”.