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Rohani hails ‘new chapter’ in Iran-France relations

Stephane de Sakutin, POOL, AFP | French President Francois Hollande meets with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on January 28, 2016 at the Elysee presidential Palace in Paris

Iran and France share a responsibility in the fight against terrorism, French President François Hollande said Thursday, speaking during a landmark visit to Paris by President Hassan Rohani that was dominated by trade and business deals.


Speaking at a joint press conference with Hollande following talks, Rohani said Iran and France must share intelligence in the fight against “fanaticism, terrorism and extremism”.

Rohani’s visit to France – the first by an Iranian leader in 10 years – marked a political reconciliation between the two countries, which have historically enjoyed economic and cultural ties.

"This is a new chapter in our relationship that has opened today, and I want this relationship to be useful to our two countries and useful to the region, which is unfortunately marked by wars, crises and tragedies,” said Hollande.

Hollande and Rohani at a joint press conference

The visit followed the beginning of the process of lifting nuclear sanctions in January and was dominated by bilateral trade deals between major French and Iranian companies. These included a memorandum of understanding between Iran Air and Airbus for the purchase of 118 Airbus aircraft worth around €23 billion.

‘Terrorism is a common enemy’

Political relations between Tehran and Paris, tense in recent years over Iran’s nuclear programme, have been further strained by the Syrian conflict.

As the region’s Shiite powerhouse, Iran backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. France, on the other hand, has close ties with the Sunni Gulf states – particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar – and has backed the Syrian rebels.

Both Rohani and Hollande sought to play down these differences by emphasising the common fight against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq.

“Terrorism is a common enemy, it strikes all people,” said Hollande. “To fight terrorism, political problems must be resolved. Therefore we urgently need to put in place humanitarian measures and negotiate a political transition. It is possible.”

Addressing the issue of Assad’s future – a major stumbling block in jumpstarting peace talks in Geneva – Rohani maintained that defeating terrorism was the main issue, not who was in charge of Syria.

"It is up to the Syrian people to make decisions for their country," Rohani said. "The problem in Syria is not a question of people, but of terrorism and Daesh,” he said, referring to the IS group by an Arabic acronym.

Addressing human rights

The common fight against the IS group was also emphasised during discussions on the thorny issue of human rights.

Rohani’s visit to Paris was marked by a demonstration by feminist group Femen protesting Iran’s use of the death penalty. Iran is one of the world’s largest users of the death penalty, next only to China, according to Amnesty International.

Describing his talks with Rohani as “frank” and comprehensive, Hollande said that he did stress France’s commitment to rights.

“I reiterated France’s commitment to human rights [and] liberties that are necessary for all countries, for all the regions in the world,” said Hollande, adding that “the fight against terrorism can be conducted without violating human rights”.


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