France has added another layer to the maneuvers over the 2015 nuclear agreement, saying that Iran must accept talks on a complementary arrangement over its ballistic missiles and regional activity.
The International Atomic Energy Agency reported Thursday that Tehran is continuing to abide by the terms of the July 2015 deal, despite US withdrawal in May. But Paris used the verification to seek new agreements to get out of the bind of expanding US sanctions and concerns over the Islamic Republic’s military and political maneuvers.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said at the start of a European Union Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Vienna:
“Iran must respect the fundamentals of the JCPOA (nuclear deal) and I think that is the case….
But Iran cannot avoid discussions, negotiations on three other major subjects that worry us — the future of Iran’s nuclear commitments after 2025, the ballistic [missile] question and the fact there is a sort of ballistic proliferation on the part of Iran…and the role Iran plays to stabilize the whole region.
We must talk about these three subjects, Iran must be aware of this, and that’s the message I send to them from Vienna.
Before the Trump Administration’s withdrawal, French President Emmanuel Macron had proposed the ballistic missile talks as a path to offset US claims over Iran and to secure the nuclear deal. However, Iran rejected any negotiations.
Paris now appears to be pursuing the option not as much to bring Trump back into an agreement which he has called the “worst deal” in US history, but to secure an independent Europe-Iran line establishing some distance from the comprehensive American sanctions.
The US has already implemented the first phase of the expanded restrictions, and is threatening measure against Iran’s energy and financial sectors — including punishment of any European company continuing to do business with Tehran — from early November.
Le Drian said that, with Germany and the UK, France is exploring “financial mechanisms” to make sure Iran can continue international trade.
The French initiative faces an immediate obstacle in Iran’s Supreme Leader, who closed off the European path — a priority of the Rouhani Government since May — on Wednesday:
There is no problem with negotiations and keeping contact with the Europeans, but you should give up hope on them over economic issues or the nuclear deal.