Q. – On Iran, what’s your current analysis of the possibility of securing an agreement satisfactory to France, which has been perceived as the most hardline country in these recent negotiations? And how will the attitude of the American Congress influence this prospect?
THE MINISTER – We talked about it yesterday, of course, because we were having a G7 meeting in Lübeck. John Kerry made the return journey after seeing Congress the day before. He headed back to Washington, where I’ll be at the end of the week, incidentally, not in relation to these issues but for a meeting of what’s called the MEF, the Major Economies Forum, on the COP21.
On Iran, we took a position that hasn’t changed since the outset. I’ve been following this work since the government took office. We’d like to reach an agreement, but we’d like that agreement to be solid, robust and verifiable. Why? The two things are linked, because what’s at issue is nuclear proliferation, and I believe the agreement we may reach with Iran will be a sort of standard for all countries.
At various points, France has been regarded not as hardline but as firm. Why? If I’m shown a bottle of water and told that it’s wine, I’ll say, “No, it’s actually a bottle of water!” Imagine we absolutely wanted to sign the agreement with Iran whatever its content; what would happen? The countries in the region – understood in the broad sense – would accept that an agreement had indeed been signed but would regard it as insufficiently solid. They themselves would then protect themselves. So although the agreement is supposed to authorize civilian nuclear energy and ban the atomic bomb, you’d achieve exactly the opposite effect. And it’s not headline news to say there are several countries in the region which are perfectly capable of obtaining nuclear weapons.
Nuclear weapons were a factor that prevented war when they were possessed by four or five countries in the previous context. Ultimately – and this is the whole paradox of nuclear deterrence –, if most big countries have nuclear weapons in that completely explosive region, the Middle East, it’s clearly a disaster.
So both in relation to what we may think of Iran and, in general, to ensure there is peace and security, if there’s to be an agreement it must be robust and verifiable.
From that viewpoint, a number of advances have been made in the agreement – I’m not going to return to them; they’re now known – on the number of centrifuges, on uranium stocks, on the percentage of enrichment and on the Arak reactor.
There’s been significant work that represents progress, but there are still – and I’ve always used this phrase – elements that are not yet satisfactory. There’s the question of sanctions: what’s the pace for lifting sanctions, if we decide to lift them? And which sanctions? There’s the so-called “snap-back” mechanism: if Iran doesn’t comply with its obligations, how do we revert automatically to the previous sanctions? And then there’s the clearly essential question of verification. It’s all very well, but can we verify? If we can’t manage to verify, then clearly…
We discussed all this. We didn’t reach an agreement, but you can’t say we didn’t talk; it’s not the same thing. So that’s why I say we still have a lot of work to do.
That is France’s position. France is an independent country; we’d like an agreement, of course, but on a firm and verifiable basis. And that will of course be France’s position throughout. (…)
Our colleagues are getting back to work over the coming days. I think we’re heading towards a conference in Vienna, where some work has also been done in the past. And we’re preparing for what will happen between now and the end of June; in the normal course of events, the final date is set for 30 June. (…)./.