Iran - nuclear program - Statements by the French Authorities (July 30, 2015)
Preliminary remarks by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, at his press conference (excerpts) (Tehran, July 29, 2015)<:A>
Paris, July 30, 2015
Q. – You’re back from Iran, where you met the Iranian President and other political leaders. Are France and Iran finally reconciled?
THE MINISTER – It was a first, because it was 17 years since a French foreign minister had paid an official bilateral visit to Iran. And it’s true that a few days ago, with other countries, we signed the so-called Vienna agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme. And it made this contact necessary and even easier.
Now, it’s clearly only a first official contact. But I think it was a useful visit, because we talked about the Iranian nuclear agreement, we talked about the region – because the Iranians are very active there – and we also talked about our bilateral relations.
IRAN/ROLE IN REGION
Q. – And we’re also going to talk about those in this interview. Let’s begin with the region: it’s perhaps the subject where there’s still a lot of disagreement between France and Iran.
THE MINISTER – Yes, there are differences. The Iranians are active, directly or indirectly, in several countries. They’re active in Syria, because they’re supporting Bashar al-Assad; they’re active in Iraq; they’re active, in a way, in Yemen; they’re also active in Lebanon, through Hezbollah. And it’s true that we’ll see whether this nuclear agreement leads to a change in their position.
What we’d like, of course, is for them to work for peace and stability, and for the time being it’s not that easy. And we talked about this. We’re going to carry on talking, because one of the results of my visit is that from now on, the foreign ministers of Iran and France will have a political meeting at least once a year. But we hope Iran’s attitude moves towards stabilization and the search for peace. The Iranians are clearly very important in Lebanon too.
FIGHT AGAINST DAESH (ISIL)
Q. – Can Iran be a major support in the fight against Daesh [ISIL]?
THE MINISTER – Objectively, yes. In Iraq, for example, Shia Iran is fighting Daesh, and often with troops. But when I say “objectively, yes”, it doesn’t mean there’s a coalition, because they’re not part of the coalition.
Q. – And yesterday didn’t you get President Rouhani to say to you: “we’re going there, we’re going there with you”?
THE MINISTER – They want – they say it and I think it’s true – to fight Daesh’s terrorism, and clearly this kind of support can be useful. But they don’t want coordination of forces or joint organization.
We think the solution everywhere is political. Particularly in Iraq, which we were talking about earlier, there must be a really inclusive government, i.e. one made up of Kurds, Sunnis and Shias, and change may then be possible, because whether it be in Syria, Iraq or elsewhere, there must be governments that bring people together. And this was the argument I put to the Iranians.
Q. – And so you met President Rouhani in Iran, but the Revolutionary Guards are also very active, and they’re pretty much the ones who hold power; will it be possible for the scenario to change?
THE MINISTER – I’ve no idea. There are several arguments. Firstly, there’s this nuclear agreement we reached: France was criticized for being very firm, but I stand by it. I think that when you’re talking about nuclear power, the question is whether or not they could get an atomic bomb. France showed constructive firmness, which was useful in the end, because everyone agreed on a text which is good.
Now, it’s true this is challenged by some elements, particularly the ones you mentioned. Among the Revolutionary Guards, some say: “but as a result, this will prompt the Iranians to change their whole regional policy”. I’m more cautious: in the immediate future I’m not sure there will be any change. But ultimately of course, with an economic recovery it may lead them to change. But the official statements for the time being show no international change.
Q. – Let’s talk now about France: you also went there [to Iran] as something of a travelling salesman for French businesses. What are Iran’s needs today?
THE MINISTER – Considerable. Iran has 78 million inhabitants, so it’s a very large country, and given the economic sanctions that have been in place for several years, it’s a country that is suffering and needs a lot of things; they say so. For example, they need trains that work, they need planes, food and equipment of all kinds. And France is well placed, because we had a presence in Iran for a long time…
Q. – That’s not what I’ve read…
THE MINISTER – Yes, but this is what I know – at any rate it’s what I’ve been told. For a long time, there was – to give you some rough figures – bilateral trade in the order of €4 billion, and today, it’s fallen to €400 million. So you see, there’s considerable scope. Our companies have a very good reputation, but admittedly for several years we’ve been prevented from working together, given the sanctions. So there are significant prospects, and in September a business delegation of 100 or so business leaders is going over there with M. Le Foll, who is in charge of agrifoods, and M. Fekl, who, with me, is in charge of foreign trade, and I think there are very good prospects. And I was struck by the very down-to-earth nature of my discussions with the ministers, and, on the French President’s behalf, I also passed on an invitation to President Rouhani to come to France in November.
Q. – Yet the Iranian authorities, to give a concrete example, said they preferred Volkswagen to Peugeots in the future.
THE MINISTER – I had a meeting with the Industry Minister and we spoke about Peugeot and Renault, and I’ll speak to the two groups’ directors about this. As far as Renault – which has just made an offer – is concerned, it was received positively. As far as Peugeot is concerned, the Iranian leaders are criticizing Peugeot for leaving, a few years ago, in a way that they’re protesting against. And so this may be more difficult, but I obviously argued in favour of our two groups.
Q. – A word on tourism as well. Are you telling French people that they should now go on holiday to Iran?
THE MINISTER – Until now, Iran was – as you know, we’ve got a map at the Foreign Ministry – coloured red and orange. In view of the fact that security over there is no less than in other countries which are classified as yellow, we decided to classify that country as yellow, which means that you can go there – and by the way it’s a magnificent country –, whilst of course exercising a great deal of vigilance.
All in all, it was a useful visit, which doesn’t mean we agree on every point. But a country like France must have regular contacts with Iran, which is one of the major players in that region. (…)./.
Preliminary remarks by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, at his press conference (excerpts)
Tehran, July 29, 2015
I’m delighted to be here. Thank you for coming, anyway. This visit to Tehran has been productive. As you know, it’s the first bilateral visit to Iran by a foreign minister in 17 years. I believe that M. Villepin came in 2003, but it was in another context with two other foreign ministers. But in terms of an actual bilateral visit, an official visit, it’s been 17 years.
So obviously this was a long-awaited visit on both sides. It was made possible by the agreement we reached, the Vienna agreement, the 14 July agreement, which is very important – historic, even – and is still to be examined by US Congress and the Iranian Parliament. (…)
We talked about the regional situation, because it’s an issue which concerns us all and one on which there can also be differences in approach between Iran and France, so we exchanged our points of view.
We of course talked about our political exchanges and decided that each year there would be a meeting, prepared by meetings of our staff, between the two foreign ministers to take stock of our political cooperation.
And then – I’m going to come to this in a moment – we talked about the visit President Hollande has invited the Iranian President to pay.
And then, of course, I also raised – as I do whenever necessary – the issue of human rights.
I was also welcomed by President Rouhani, the Iranian President, whom I had had the opportunity to meet, since I was at President Hollande’s side when he saw President Rouhani on a couple of occasions. So I handed a letter to him from François Hollande, and an invitation to go to France in the middle of November. We hope he’ll be able to go. We talked in particular about political and economic cooperation, which was an important topic throughout today. (…)
I then met several important ministers (…): first, a meeting with the Petroleum Minister, who is a very experienced man, and we talked about opportunities to work together, and a company such as Total is highly valued here – I had the opportunity to confirm this – as is the French Institute of Petroleum. And there’s a great deal of work to be done together in this area and in green technology, new technology.
Then I had a meeting with the Vice-President, who is also the Environment Minister – whom, incidentally, I’ve welcomed before to Paris. She is someone who knows her subjects very well and we talked chiefly about COP21, since, as you know, I’m going to be chairing this extremely important conference at the end of the year. I invited her to come to France at the beginning of September,
because I’m calling a meeting of 50 or so ministers, environment ministers, from all over the world to make headway on the preparation of COP21. I had this type of meeting a few days ago on COP21’s ambition and the subject of differentiation, and at this one we’re going to talk about finance and technology. These are words with a very clear meaning in the COP21 framework, and I hope the Minister will be able to join us. (…)
We have an important MEDEF [French business confederation] delegation, which is going to come in September. I’ve asked M. Le Foll, the French Agriculture Minister, and M. Fekl, Minister of State for [Foreign] Trade, to accompany the delegation, and that’s what they’ll do. And I’m sure it will be very favourably received. (…)
And then I informed my interlocutors that we were going to change how the map is drawn for Iran to encourage tourism in both directions, so that a greater number of Iranian tourists can come to France and that French tourists come to this country. (…)
I think you’ve seen that the Iranian government did everything that was necessary for this visit to go very smoothly, which it did. And so I’ll report back to President Hollande and the Prime Minister on all this at the Council of Ministers, which is taking place on Friday. But I think the way we’ve proceeded, on both sides, is absolutely in line with what we wanted to do. (…)./.
Paris, July 29, 2015
Q. – France has been criticized in Tehran, because you sometimes appeared to be the most intransigent negotiator on the nuclear issue. What reception do you expect there today?
THE MINISTER – Our constant line in these major negotiations was what I call “constructive vigilance”. Why? Because of what was actually at stake: the issue in question was access to the atomic bomb. The whole credibility of the international fight against nuclear proliferation risked being damaged in the event of a weak or unverifiable agreement, because Iran’s neighbours would have deduced from it that they too had to engage in military nuclear programmes. So a solid and credible agreement was in everyone’s interests, including those of Iran. (…)
Q. – The Israelis and some Republican leaders in the United States believe that Iran will never give up building a bomb and that this agreement prevents nothing. What’s your answer to them?
THE MINISTER – That’s not my opinion. Those of the experts who have read in detail the 100 or so pages which make up the agreement and its annexes will be able to judge for themselves the detail and scope of the commitments made: on the drastic limitation of uranium enrichment capabilities, on research and development concerning centrifuges, on the halting of the Arak reactor’s plutonium production capacity, and on the verification measures. On every area we’ve been extremely clear, and that’s one of the reasons for the length of the discussions. The essential thing, of course, will be, on the one hand, Iran’s implementation of our joint decisions and, on the other hand, the ability of the international community, in particular the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to verify this implementation.
LIFTING OF SANCTIONS
Q. – Iran is going to regain room for manoeuvre thanks to the lifting of sanctions and the return of more than €100 billion of assets frozen in foreign banks. Won’t the country be tempted to take advantage of this to extend its influence in the Middle East?
THE MINISTER – The lifting of sanctions will be progressive, according to a timetable that will depend on the country’s respect for its commitments. Iran has suffered a great deal from the sanctions; the Iranian people are hoping that the resources which the state will benefit from will be used for their development and material wellbeing. There too, we’ll have to be vigilant. The region is fragile; there are many crises. Iran’s neighbours are getting worried. So Tehran will again find itself in a situation where it can play or not play a pacifying role and regain or not regain its full place in the concert of nations.
Q. – Can Iran, which supports Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian President, help him put an end to the interminable conflict in Syria?
THE MINISTER – In the face of the tragedy the Syrian people are undergoing, there will only be a political solution. And an inclusive one – i.e. with a new government comprising elements both of the regime and of the so-called moderate opposition. We’re convinced that Bashar al-Assad himself can’t be his country’s future. Iran exerts strong influence there. So yes, it’s a player in this crisis.
Q. – Can French businesses play their part in the Iranian market that is opening up? And if so, in what fields?
THE MINISTER – The competition will be tough, but our businesses have strengths to highlight, in particular in the automotive industry, air transport, energy, health and agrifoods. Not only are there considerable Iranian needs, there’s also a French tradition of excellence that is recognized in Iran./.
Paris, July 28, 2015
After years of tough but constructive negotiations, I am travelling to Tehran at the invitation of my Iranian counterpart, Mr Mohammad Javad Zarif. I am delighted at this prospect.
The French have long been fascinated by Persia, with its great cultural heritage and outstanding contribution to the history of science and ideas. We are equally amazed by Iranian students: in French universities, they achieve excellence and are the embodiment of Iran. Now, everything is in place for us to step up our exchanges.
The 14 July nuclear deal is a turning point. To carry it through, it is of crucial importance that all parties meet their commitments in line with the agreed timetable. This is the only way to build mutual trust between them.
Our businessmen and industrialists have been working together for a long time. French technology and products are well-known and meet the high expectations of Iranian entrepreneurs and consumers. Now, both countries can further their economic cooperation as new perspectives open up.
France, as a major power in terms of peace and security, has always had respectful and frank relations with Iran, even when we hold diverging views. It is with this in mind that I set off for Iran, where I will address all these topics with the Iranian authorities.
The path is clear for renewed bilateral dialogue. At a time when the Middle East is experiencing numerous tensions, we will pay special attention to peace and security issues in the region. In the face of so many crises and tragedies, Iran – an influential power – can play a positive role.
We want to work for a safer world and Iran must participate fully in these efforts. This is the message I will convey to Tehran./.
Communiqué issued by the Presidency of the Republic
Paris, July 23, 2015
The French President spoke to Mr Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran. They welcomed the agreement reached in Vienna on 14 July. Together they discussed the practicalities of its implementation. They agreed to step up bilateral cooperation in this new context. M. Laurent Fabius’s visit to Iran on 29 July will seek to begin this development.
The French President said he would like Iran to make a positive contribution to resolving crises in the Middle East./.
Paris, July 21, 2015
Q. – The other subject that concerns you very directly is of course the Iranian nuclear issue. Yesterday the United Nations Security Council and the European Union gave the green light to the agreement reached in Vienna last week. You were involved in the negotiations. Can you say clearly today that following this agreement, Iran will not have an atomic bomb in the next 10 years?
THE MINISTER – Yes, it’s crystal clear. This was the goal, because we had every reason to believe that Iran had started a whole series of efforts to obtain the atomic bomb. And the atomic bomb would have been extremely dangerous, not only because it’s dangerous [in itself] but also because it would have triggered a situation whereby other, neighbouring countries would have wanted to obtain the atomic bomb, in an already very explosive region.
The agreement we reached after 12 years of negotiations – I myself only did, as it were, the last three years – is a truly major diplomatic agreement.
Perhaps in a moment we can go into the details. Two days ago, I had a phone call – which I very much appreciated – of congratulations from Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary-General, and we agreed that it was without doubt the most important diplomatic agreement for an extremely long time.
Q. – What was France’s role and your role in the final straight of the negotiations? Were you the hawk described in the press, or at any rate in favour of a harder line towards Iran?
THE MINISTER – When you reach an agreement – there was the 5+1 on one side, i.e. the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany, and Iran on the other side –, when there’s an agreement, it means everyone’s done their bit: you can’t say it’s due to X or it’s due to Y.
Q. – Were you – to rephrase the question – the “bad cop” towards Iran?
THE MINISTER – No, but admittedly France – in this case, I was its representative – was very firm. Why? Because, on the one hand, it’s about the nuclear programme and you have to be extremely serious. There are a whole series of technical measures to take, and we couldn’t lie to ourselves, especially because I was surrounded by experts from the CEA [French Atomic Energy Commission].
And also for another reason, which is really crucial: we would have signed a watered-down agreement, but what would the consequence have been? Neighbouring countries – I’m thinking of the countries in the region – would have said: “you’ve signed an agreement, but it’s absolutely not going to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons. So we ourselves…”
Q. – Which Israel is saying today about your agreement…
THE MINISTER – …so those countries would also have said they were going to acquire nuclear weapons. And then we’d have had an entirely nuclearized region, which was a frightening risk. And what I did, through this attitude of constructive firmness, was to ensure, along with my colleagues, that the agreement was extremely robust, and we wouldn’t have signed an agreement that wasn’t robust. And specifically, with regard to your question, every measure was taken, including at the level of verification, to ensure that in the next 15 years – whatever Iran’s intentions – it’s impossible for that country to acquire nuclear weapons.
Q. – Are we going to pay for that firmness today, at a time when Iran is going to reopen its doors to Western companies? The German Vice-Chancellor was in Tehran only yesterday…
THE MINISTER – No.
Q. – You still haven’t been there.
THE MINISTER – No, I’ll be there next week.
Q. – Oh, you’re announcing it to us this morning!
THE MINISTER – Yes…
Q. – With a delegation of business people?
THE MINISTER – No, initially I’ll be going as a politician. My Iranian colleague, Mr Zarif, invited me. Incidentally, he’d also invited me previously and I hadn’t gone, but now I think everything’s in place for me to go there, and I’ll be having talks on every subject with him.
So to answer your question, will French businesses be penalized? The answer is no. Firstly because we had a significant presence in Iran in the past which the Iranians were entirely satisfied with. Also, the Iranians are very straightforward about the areas – and there are many – where our businesses excel and are competitive. (…) Moreover, as you know, international political life resembles life in general: I don’t think you ever lose out by earning people’s respect.
Q. – Will you be meeting President Rouhani next week?
THE MINISTER – Yes. That’s scheduled. And I’m delighted to be going. (…)
Q. – If I’ve understood correctly, the agreement with Iran is valid for only 10 years. Does this mean that in 10 years’ time Iran will be able to continue its nuclear research?
THE MINISTER – No. It’s true that the issue of the agreement’s duration is quite complex – it’s an agreement about 100 pages long, with a lot of annexes – but the implementation periods are not the same in the different areas.
The 10 years are specifically about the limitation on the number of centrifuges. Today, Iran has 20,000 centrifuges; we reached an agreement at the end of which it will be able to use only 5,060 centrifuges. A centrifuge is what enables uranium to be enriched, and if you want to move towards an atomic bomb you must have 90% enriched uranium. We got the number of centrifuges to be much smaller.
There are provisions concerning weapons sales which are valid for five years, and provisions on ballistic missiles which are valid for eight years. But there are also other provisions which apply over 15 years, and that’s the figure we must bear in mind, because for 15 years, if Iran doesn’t comply with its obligations we’ll be able to reintroduce sanctions against the country. Moreover, there are 20-year and 25-year obligations and there are also perpetual obligations.
To conclude – because I don’t wish to be too technical – there’s a notion we must bear in mind called “breakout time”: the time Iran would need, if it violates its obligations, to have the atomic bomb. Today it’s two months, and for [the next] 10 years it will be at least one year. So you see this enables us to have a much stronger capacity for reaction and protection than previously.
As you know, before signing the agreement on France’s behalf and after talking to the French President about it, I had a conversation with the Director General of the IAEA; he’s the one in charge of verification. I asked him: “With what we’re preparing and what we’re going to sign, will you have the means to verify that Iran won’t be able to obtain the atomic bomb?” He answered yes.
Q. – With Iran’s reintegration into the concert of nations, a very major economy is going to enter the global market. Will France play its role?
THE MINISTER – I’m keen to say that we signed this agreement not for commercial reasons – even though there may be commercial consequences – but for strategic reasons.
Let’s think about it: what was the alternative? The alternative – and John Kerry put it very well – was war, and when you ask yourself whether or not the agreement is good, you mustn’t make an absolute judgment, you must make a judgment based on the alternative: were there any reasonable people who wanted or want there to be a war with Iran? No, and I think we must bear this in mind.
As for trade, we’re getting Iran to renounce nuclear weapons. In exchange, after being subject to sanctions, particularly economic sanctions, Iran gets the chance for them to be lifted. But they won’t be until we’re certain it’s fulfilling its military obligations.
But it will open up a new market, with 80 million inhabitants; there are a whole number of prospects in terms of transport, aviation, agrifoods and many other areas. The French had a presence in the past; now they no longer have much presence. It will give us opportunities for our businesses to be there; a MEDEF [French employers’ organization] delegation will also be going there in September.
Moreover, at my suggestion, there’s been an exchange of letters between the Americans on the one hand and the Europeans on the other – there were three of us
– to ensure that businesses which are going to trade with Iran can’t be penalized. I don’t know if you remember the Paribas case. That company had traded with Iran and Cuba, among others – and it’s quite unique in historical terms – and Paribas had to pay a $9-million fine.
We don’t want the same thing to happen if sanctions, having been lifted, are restored. Without going into over-complex details, we reached an agreement with the Americans to ensure that everyone – not only the Americans but the Europeans and the others too – could trade. The goal is to enable the Iranian people to improve their living standards./.
Paris, July 20, 2015
The United Nations Security Council has adopted Resolution 2231, which endorses the recent agreement reached in Vienna by Iran and the E3+3 nations on the nuclear issue. This decision is an important step toward the implementation of our Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Its unanimous adoption is good news.
The historic importance of this agreement, the major role played by the three European powers (France, the United Kingdom and Germany) and the role of coordinator taken on by the High Representative were applauded by the European Union Foreign Affairs Council.
Paris, July 14, 2015
Q. – (…) This very morning, an agreement was reached with Tehran on the Iranian nuclear programme and the lifting of the embargo. Can we, firstly, trust the regime of the mullahs, the Tehran regime?
THE PRESIDENT – A very important agreement was signed last night. The world really is moving forward. There had been negotiations for 12 years – 12 years.
And now, at last, there’s a successful outcome. France was very firm in this negotiation and Laurent Fabius conducted it very rigorously and also very firmly.
What was my concern? To avoid nuclear proliferation. What does nuclear proliferation mean? It means that Iran could have acquired nuclear weapons. If Iran acquired nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia, Israel and other countries would also want to acquire nuclear weapons. This would be a risk for the whole planet. So Iran had to be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons. Now, Iran has just agreed to reduce its capacities, its centrifuges.
The second important thing, second objective: we had to be able to verify, because it’s too easy to say “I’m giving up, but you can’t enter my territory to verify”. So inspections will be carried out.
The third objective I and Laurent Fabius had in this negotiation was for us to be able, certainly, to lift the sanctions – because there are sanctions against Iran –, but [also] restore them if there were the slightest breach. (…) So, Iran won’t have access to nuclear weapons – first point. We’ll be able to verify. If there are breaches, we’ll be able to restore the sanctions.
Q. – So apart from trust, there’s a mechanism, is that what you’re saying?
THE PRESIDENT – There’s a mechanism. This mechanism will also be operated by an international organization competent to do this.
Q. – Up to now, France has opted for alliances with the Sunni monarchies, especially Saudi Arabia; you yourself were very warmly welcomed over there. Hasn’t this change and the return of Iran, the great Shia power, to the concert of nations caught us out a little?
THE PRESIDENT – If France wants to ensure peace, it must talk to everyone, but with principles which apply to everyone. For Iran, as long as there was this nuclear threat, it wasn’t possible. Iran also had sanctions imposed on it at international level. What’s more, when Iran supports a number of armed groups which destabilize countries, it isn’t acceptable. I told the Iranians this.
As for the other countries – Arab countries and the Gulf monarchies –, we say to them: you also must play a role to fight terrorism. (…) So we don’t want to create opposition between Iran, a so-called Shia country, and others, Saudi Arabia and other countries, which are supposedly Sunni. This would mean gambling with extremely dangerous divisions. So we must advance the same principles and talk to everyone.
And, now that Iran is going to have greater capabilities on the financial front, since there’ll be no more sanctions, we’ve got to keep an extremely close eye on what Iran will be. Iran must show – I’m going to take an extremely specific subject – on Syria, that it is willing to help us put an end to the conflict. (…)./.
Paris, July 14, 2015
The French President had a conversation this afternoon with Barack Obama about the agreement reached on the Iranian nuclear program.
The [French] Head of State paid tribute to the efforts of the negotiators, who for many months sought a serious and verifiable agreement. He emphasized that the time for discussion is now over and the time has come for action.
The process under way includes clear limitations on the Iranian nuclear program, a robust monitoring system and the opportunity to reintroduce sanctions in the event of the commitments being violated.
It is up to Iran to implement all the measures provided for, according to the timeable established. France, with its partners, will ensure rigorously and in good faith that the agreement is complied with.
The result obtained lessens the risk to regional and international security that nuclear proliferation represents.
It is paramount that Iran should now become a responsible player in its neighbourhood’s stability./.
Paris, July 14, 2015
Q. – How can you guarantee to Israel and the Gulf countries that this agreement is sufficiently “robust”, to use your expression, to prevent Iran from ultimately equipping itself with an atomic weapon?
THE MINISTER – The Iran nuclear issue doesn’t concern only Israel and the Gulf countries: ensuring that Iran can’t equip itself with a nuclear weapon is a concern for the whole international community. Nuclear proliferation and therefore security and peace are at stake.
In order to achieve this goal – “yes to civilian nuclear energy for Iran, no to a nuclear weapon” –, which the French President and I myself have always said governs France’s position, we were especially mindful in these long negotiations of three aspects: clearly limiting Iran’s uranium enrichment capabilities and what it will be able to do in terms of research and development; being able to specifically verify the implementation of its commitments; and providing for a mechanism to automatically reintroduce sanctions in the event of a violation. This line of constructive firmness enabled us to achieve a sufficiently robust agreement, in any case for a period of more than 10 years. In the same spirit we’ll ensure that it’s implemented.
Q. – Do you envisage visiting Tehran soon?
THE MINISTER – It’s entirely possible.
Q. – Does this agreement pave the way for cooperation with Iran on the major regional crises, particularly Syria, Iraq and Yemen?
THE MINISTER – The agreement aims to end one of the most serious and long-running nuclear proliferation crises. It aims for more peace and stability in the Middle East. The region is already explosive enough without the addition of nuclear conflicts. Moreover, if Iran – an important country, a great civilization and a major player in the region – clearly makes the choice of cooperating, we’ll welcome this development, but we’ll judge on results. Its contribution would be useful to help resolve many crises.
Q. – Aren’t you afraid Iran will use the considerable funds recovered through the lifting of sanctions to strengthen Shia militias in the Middle East?
THE MINISTER – That will be one of the tests. And we’ll be especially vigilant about it.
Q. – What are the advances in this agreement compared to the Lausanne agreement in April, which defined the broad parameters of a compromise?
THE MINISTER – We’ve moved from agreement on several principles in Lausanne to an actual, precise, complete agreement in Vienna. This in itself represented a huge diplomatic effort. On the underlying issues, we’ve made progress on, among other things, issues linked to militarization and what’s called the “acquisition path” – i.e. the specific procedure Iran will have to comply with to acquire goods of some sensitivity. We’ve also clarified the issue of the arms and missiles embargo. Above all, it’s about a comprehensive agreement that ends 12 years of controversy and argument. It guarantees the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear programme. And it can, if it’s fully respected, facilitate a normalization of Iran’s international relations. In this respect it can be described as historic.
Q. – Under the terms of this agreement, Iran keeps the right to a regulated nuclear programme and will be able to continue research and development on advanced centrifuges: in reality, doesn’t this amount to kicking the same issue 10 years down the road?
THE MINISTER – Let’s concentrate on some indisputable elements: before this agreement, the breakout time – i.e. the time necessary for Iran to accumulate enough enriched uranium to manufacture a bomb – was two months; this time is increased to more than 12 months by the agreement, and it will be maintained at this level for 10 years. Limitations will remain beyond the 10 years. Moreover, this strictly civilian nuclear programme will be subject to the necessary checks. This in itself is an appreciable result.
Q. – The agreement advocates the lifting of sanctions against Iran. How can you guarantee they’ll be reintroduced in the event of a confirmed violation by Iran?
THE MINISTER – It’s what’s called “snapback”. France worked hard to propose and have adopted a mechanism for the automatic reintroduction of sanctions in the event of Iran violating its obligations. If one of the P5+1 countries (the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany) believes Iran isn’t fulfilling its obligations and it [Iran] doesn’t provide a credible explanation, that country will be able to trigger a Security Council vote on a draft resolution reaffirming the lifting of UN sanctions. I grant you that it’s subtle, but it’s the price of making effective compromises on such complex issues.
Q. – In the event of the agreement being violated, this text provides for Iran having a maximum of 65 days before the reintroduction of sanctions: doesn’t this period give Iran the necessary time to conceal its proliferation activities?
THE MINISTER – If one of the six P5+1 countries believes Iran is violating one of its obligations, it refers the matter to the Joint Commission, which includes the Six and also the Iranians. A discussion then begins for a maximum of 35 days. If it’s not convinced, any one of the Six may refer the matter to the Security Council, with a maximum of 30 days then to reintroduce sanctions. It is indeed quite lengthy, but with modern monitoring and verification technologies, it’s not possible to conceal every trace of proliferation activities.
Q. – Does the agreement maintain a total embargo on heavy and ballistic weapons, and [if so,] for how long?
THE MINISTER – This was discussed right to the end. France’s position has been clear and firm on this too: it would be contradictory for the immediate consequence of this agreement to be the lifting of the constraints on Iran in the area of weapons and missiles. So the arms embargo is being maintained for five years and bans on transfers in the ballistic field for eight years.
Q. – Does the agreement authorize the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit all the sites, including military ones, without restrictions?
THE MINISTER – An agreement which isn’t verifiable is an agreement which isn’t implemented. So we made sure that Iran applies the IAEA’s highest standards of verification. Added to this is a specific procedure concerning it [Iran]. Access to all the sites will be possible, including the Parchin site, not to try and uncover military secrets but to verify whether or not there has been any reprehensible nuclear activity. I spoke to the IAEA Director General about this several times to make sure that he considered the measure adequate and credible.
Q. – What are the stages of the agreement’s implementation? And do you fear deadlock at the US Congress?
THE MINISTER – The timetable is this: after endorsement by the Security Council a 90-day period begins, during which Iran will have to take various steps to prepare itself for implementing the agreement. The next phase will last six to nine months, during which it will have to implement all its nuclear commitments. Each of these stages will be accompanied by a gradual easing of sanctions. As regards the United States, Congress will have to express its view, and I’ve no particular comment to make on this, other than this, which is common sense: when we evaluate an agreement, we mustn’t do so only in absolute terms, but compare the situation when there’s an agreement with what happens in concrete terms if there’s no agreement.
Q. – Aren’t you afraid that the closer ties observed between France and Saudi Arabia will penalize French companies in the Iranian market?
THE MINISTER – No, for two reasons. Firstly, when we’re talking about eliminating the threat of military nuclear activities, you can’t determine your own country’s position on the basis of commercial considerations: we’re talking about security and peace. Secondly, there will in all likelihood be stiff economic competition in Iran, because everyone is lining up. But don’t forget that our companies have worked with and in that country for a long time, that they excel in several sectors and that they will have strengths to highlight. So I have confidence in them. As for our traditional friendships, there’s no question of giving them up./.