The Elysée announced the meeting between the French President and the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs. Can you give us more details and the reasons for such short and unexpected notice?
An Iranian delegation will be here tomorrow, led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Mottaki, and accompanied by several of his colleagues. He will be received by the French President. Bernard Kouchner will be present at this meeting and will then receive Mr. Mottaki at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. The two ministers will tackle, in particular, the nuclear issue, regional issues and bilateral relations. Let me remind you that the two ministers have already met on several occasions: recently in Davos in February 2009, but also alongside the Expanded Ministerial Conference of the Neighboring Countries of Iraq, held in Kuwait in April 2008 and in Istanbul in November 2007. Let me also remind you that Mr. Mottaki attended the International Conference on Afghanistan that we jointly organized in Paris with the UN and the Afghan government on June 12, 2008. This meeting is part of the regular dialogue that we would like to have with the Iranian government.
You know that our approach is based on firmness with regard to compliance with international laws and decisions, but also on maintaining dialogue with the Iranian authorities.
Why now? Is there a new element that justifies this meeting? Do you have a feeling that boundaries can be pushed more than yesterday? If it is just to repeat both sides’ talking points with regard to the nuclear issue, we don’t understand the usefulness of this meeting. What can happen tomorrow?
There is no particular reason for the date. With regard to what can change, that will be the topic of discussion tomorrow. It will be an opportunity for France to reaffirm the willingness of the international community, of Javier Solana and of the E3+3 to hold a dialogue with the Iranian authorities with regard to the nuclear issue but it will not be the only subject; regional issues will also be raised.
Which ones, for example? Iraq, Afghanistan?
Yes, of course all the regional issues will be tackled.
The meeting is taking place on whose initiative? It is somewhat unusual for the French President to receive a Foreign Affairs Minister. Have the Iranians indicated the content of the meeting or have they given a particular reason for the President to receive Mr. Mottaki?
There is a willingness to use an approach based on dialogue. We sometimes hear that we take a hard line approach based only on firmness. We want to reiterate that we have a two-pronged approach: based on compliance with international texts and on dialogue with the Iranian authorities. These two approaches complement each other.
Who initiated this meeting?
Both parties considered that it would be useful to meet.
France has said for some time that it does not want to have too much contact with Iran before the elections. The Six made a decision not to make any indication of interference in Iran’s foreign affairs at a critical time for that country. Why is France receiving the Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister just before the elections? Is there a link between Mr. Mottaki’s visit and the meeting between the French President and Mr. Obama at the end of the week?
There is no link between the two events that you have just mentioned. We believe that it is important to talk with the Iranian authorities. We have the opportunity to do that tomorrow. The electoral calendar has nothing to do with this issue. It is a matter of continuing dialogue with the Iranian authorities because we believe that it is very important. But we are not giving up what we believe is important, i.e. the firm and repeated demand to comply with international laws.
Why was the election campaign important before and not now?
From our point of view, there is a difference between continuing dialogue and the strong and symbolic gesture of resuming dialogue.