French foreign minister promised on Monday to defend Iran’s nuclear deal amid international tension after the US president Donald Trump vowed to tear the deal apart and signed an order to ban visa for Iranians.
Barack Obama, The former US leader, was behind the historic Iran nuclear deal with P5+1 powers, agreed upon last year, which saw Tehran agree to amend its nuclear output in order to lift all nuclear-related economic sanctions, freeing up tens of billions of dollars in oil revenue and frozen assets.
After lifting the sanctions, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani visited Europe and made deals that worth billions of dollars. European companies started looking for investment opportunities in the growing Iranian market.
However, Trump’s election might change the whole game and threaten the development that was built in the past months.
Trump has said during his election campaign that the deal as “disastrous” and said it would be his “number one priority” to dismantle it.
These threats became clearer after Trump’s inauguration, as he signed an executive order temporarily barring thousands from seven countries in the Middle East and Africa, including Iran, from obtaining visas to travel to the United States.
France is committed to the nuclear deal
Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault arrived in the Iranian capital on Monday.
During his stay, Ayrault plans to sit down with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani.
In a statement, Ayrault said the nuclear deal is “already bearing fruit” with economic deals and giving new impetus to Franco-Iranian exchanges between business people, students and tourists.
Ayrault said it was in the “common interest” that the 2015 accord under which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for lifted sanctions was obeyed.
“I’m coming as the defender of the accord, but to be vigilant and explain that they (the Iranians) must be irreproachable,” Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters after landing in Tehran.
“We harbor real concerns about the U.S. administration’s attitude towards this agreement,” he said.
Ayrault said that while Tehran had “largely” kept to the terms of the deal, it had pushed the spirit of the accord over the past year by carrying out several ballistic missile tests.
“We want this agreement to be respected,” Ayrault said.
“In the face of all the challenges our world is faced with, France refuses to turn in on itself, or to stigmatize. It is making the choice of international cooperation and multilateralism. Terrorism in particular has no nationality,” he wrote.
Criticize the US, double visas for Iranians
French worries over the direction of U.S. policy under Trump go beyond the fate of the Iranian nuclear deal and on Monday Ayrault was scathing in his criticism of the U.S. leader’s travel ban against citizens from seven mainly-Muslim countries.
In some of the strongest wording from a foreign government, Ayrault said the measures were “dangerous” and amounted to “discrimination”.
“This has nothing to do with fighting terrorism,” Ayrault told reporters.
When asked whether the U.S. immigration orders should be revoked, Ayrault said: “Yes. I think so.” He also said France would double the number of visas available to Iranians.
“France wants to be able to allow a larger number of Iranians wishing to travel to France to ask for a visa in improved conditions,” the French minister said at the start of a visit to the Islamic republic.
“This project, which aims to double the number of visas currently issued for Iran, should take effect in the summer of 2017,” he said at the French ambassador’s residence in Tehran.
France has been issuing 41,000 visas a year to Iranian nationals.
The French visit was planned to participate in a session of Iran-France joint economic commission, which is slated to be held with the participation of the two countries’ officials. Some 50 French firms are said to participate in the forum on Tuesday.
During Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s historic visit to Paris in January last year, Iran and France signed a series of basic trade deals worth billions of dollars. France’s conglomerate plane maker Airbus, the multinational integrated oil and gas company Total, and automobile manufacturers Peugeot and Renault have already signed deals with Tehran.
The French company Total signed a deal to further develop Iran’s part of the world’s largest gas field and avoided the US sanctions by financing the deal with euros, reflecting France’s interest in investing in the growing Iranian market despite the US’s threats.
However, Despite the sanction relief, including on banking restrictions, Iran continues to struggle to access Western finance, partly due to banks’ fears about penalties related to remaining U.S. sanctions.