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France’s tough stance pays off on Iran nuclear deal

© AFP

Text by Thomas HUBERT

Latest update : 2013-11-24

France’s tough diplomacy during nuclear negotiations with Iran led to a stalemate earlier in November, but French demands have now been incorporated into the interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme inked on Sunday.

As talks on Iran's nuclear programme wrapped up with an interim deal in Geneva on Sunday, French President François Hollande took the opportunity to remind the international community of the key role that French diplomacy had played in the negotiations.

“The agreement respects the demands expressed by France in terms of uranium stockpiles and enrichment, a freeze on new facilities and international monitoring,” the French leader said in a statement on Sunday.

For Hollande, the “interim agreement represents an important step in the right direction” towards a comprehensive deal with Iran.

Fabius: "We'll have to be vigilant"

His cautious tone echoed comments by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who stuck to brief comments at the end of the Geneva meeting while other international negotiators engaged in a lengthy press conference.

“This agreement confirms Iran’s right to civil nuclear energy but totally prohibits the access to a military nuclear programme. Its implementation will be tightly controlled and we’ll have to be vigilant, of course,” Fabius said, highlighting France’s role in securing a solid agreement.

Intransigent position

Since the return of Iranian and international representatives to the negotiating table earlier in the month, France has been striving to wrangle four additional commitments out of Iran.

Secret US-Iran talks

The Associated Press reported on Sunday that months of secret bilateral negotiations between US and Iranian officials were instrumental in sealing the Geneva agreement.

Senior American diplomats met their counterparts clandestinely on several occasions in the Gulf State of Oman in the past year, according to AP.

The direct talks remained hidden from the US’s closest allies until two months ago, which “may explain some of the tensions between the U.S. and France”.

The French newspaper le Canard enchaîné reported on November 20 that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had privately complained of the discrepancy between official multilateral negotiations and a “a detailed accord John Kerry had negotiated in parallel with Iran”.

“Our first demand is to put all Iranian nuclear installations under international control immediately. Second request: suspend the enrichment of uranium at 20%. Third demand: reduce the existing stockpile. Finally, stop construction at the Arak reactor,” President Hollande said on November 17.

Many observers had blamed France for its intransigent negotiating position during the previous round of talks, which ended without an agreement on November 9.

Those who did not trust Iran and opposed a deal, especially in US conservative circles, in Israel and in the Arab Gulf States, supported Fabius at the time. “Vive la France!” Republican US senator John McCain had even written on Twitter.

French demands now appear in the early details of the Geneva agreement released by the White House.

France’s former ambassador to Iran, François Nicoullaud, told FRANCE 24: “One can believe that the final agreement incorporates all points that France has raised in the process.”

French eyes will now turn to Iran to scrutinise the implementation of the deal. A French diplomatic source reminded FRANCE 24 that Iran had failed to fulfil its international obligations in the past.

Only the next six months will decide whether trust can be restored between Paris and Tehran.

 

Date created : 2013-11-24

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