Iran/nuclear issue/bilateral relations/Syria
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./.