France keeps hard line as Iran nuclear talks open
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With a moderate Iranian president in office, negotiations over Iran’s nuclear ambitions resume this week. While the US seems willing to strike a conciliatory tone, France is maintaining a harder line, according to diplomatic sources.
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the US, France, Russia, China and the UK) as well as Germany are meeting with an Iranian delegation headed by Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Geneva this week.
The goal is to advance negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme – a goal that some have seen as more realistic with a moderate like new Iranian President Hassan Rohani in office.
But if the Americans appear willing to strike a more conciliatory tone following the phone conversation between Rohani and US President Barack Obama at the end of September, France is maintaining a harder line toward Iran.
The French stance has been communicated by diplomatic sources to both FRANCE 24 and French daily Le Monde.
French position ‘closer to Netanyahu than to Obama’?
“We’re told that we need to reciprocate the good will Tehran has shown,” an anonymous source from the French foreign ministry is quoted as saying in an article published in Le Monde on Monday evening. “But what are we reciprocating? A phone call between Rohani and Obama is not enough.”
Indeed, France does not want to halt sanctions until it has concrete proof that Iran’s nuclear programme is for civil, and not military, purposes.
An Iranian diplomatic source is quoted in the article as calling French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius’s position “closer to Netanyahu’s than to Obama’s”.
Iran is expected to propose limiting their programme and guaranteeing access to IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) officials for more thorough inspections.
But France is suspicious, especially since Rohani was the negotiator in 2003 who promised a “suspension” of nuclear development – which the Americans took at face value – while Iran continued advancing its nuclear ambitions covertly.