July 06, 2010
France-Iran Foreign Relations
Reaction to June 2009 Iranian Presidential Election:
France has responded critically to the June 2009 Iranian presidential elections. In June, 2009, Eric Chevallier, the spokesman for the French foreign ministry, stated that France "is awaiting clear answers to the doubts raised over irregularities in the vote." National Secretary for International Relations Jean-Christophe Cambadelis stated that "the final result [of the election] has been marred by serious irregularities that remove all legitimacy from the candidate who was declared the winner" and that the official recognition of Ahmadinejad as the winner of the elections amounted to a "velvet coup d'etat". The French Socialist Party, the opposition party at the time of the 2009 election, announced that the party "condemns these acts and calls for the immediate release of those arrested" and that "[t]he Iranian authorities cannot ignore the population's need for freedom and democracy forever and run the risk of creating a profound crisis in Iran"
Following the escalation of unrest in Iran in late December of 2009, French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned what he called the “bloody repression” of anti-government protestors in Iran. Sarkozy added that “France stands on the side of the people who appeal for liberation and justice,” while French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, said Iran must respect its citizens democratic rights of free expression. 
In July 2009, French national Clotilde Reiss was arrested and later tried for allegedly taking part in post-election protests. French Foreign Minister spokesman Bernard Valero was quoted saying in January 2010, “we expect that her innocence will be recognized by Iranian justice and we want [her] to return to France as soon as possible.”
In 2003, France worked with Great Britain and Germany to offer the Islamic Republic a series of economic and political incentives in exchange for halting its nuclear program and cooperating with the IAEA.  By 2005, however, the deal had failed; France has since voted in favor of taking the issue to the UN Security Council (UNSC), in favor of all UNSC sanctions, and for additional sanctions imposed by the European Union.  French President Nicolas Sarkozy has supported increasing sanctions against Iran and has said that France cannot accept a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic. 
In February 2009, the EU3 proposed a list of additional, stricter sanctions in preparation for further negotiations. In June 2009, French President Nicolas Sarkozy met with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki to discuss resuming talks with the P5+1. Following the talks, Sarkozy’s office released a statement saying “he underlined the importance and the seriousness of the initiative by the ‘six’…Failing that, Iran will expose itself to constantly growing international pressure.” Although the P5+1 powers have invited Iran to begin negotiations contingent upon Iran suspending enrichment during the talks, Iran has so far refused to suspend enrichment. 
In July 2009, during a meeting of the Group of Eight (G8), of which France is a member, Sarkozy raised the prospect of another round of sanctions against Iran. Speaking at the meeting, held in Italy, the French president indicated that Iran must accept negotiations over its nuclear program by late September, when the Group of Twenty (G20) is scheduled to meet; Sarkozy explained that "[i]f there is no progress by then we will have to take decisions."
The US Treasury Department announced in July 2009 that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will meet with officials in the UK, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and France to discuss international sanctions against Iran's nuclear program. The announcement of Geithner’s visit to Europe and the Middle East came days after the G8 reaffirmed its commitment to finding a “diplomatic solution to the issue of Iran’s nuclear program,” however refrained from explicitly raising the threat of new sanctions.
In September 2009, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution laying out military and diplomatic safeguards against the use of civilian nuclear programs for military purposes. The resolution states that nations supplying nuclear material have the legal right to require the return of material if recipient countries withdraw from or do not comply with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The resolution also states that any country that halts IAEA inspections will be subject to UN Security Council safeguards. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy both insisted that Iran will face tougher sanctions if it does not fully cooperate with the IAEA. France, Britain, and the United States all demanded that the IAEA be given full access to inspect a previously clandestine nuclear facility that Iran only disclosed to the IAEA on September 21, 2009, days before the UNSC met to discuss nuclear proliferation concerns.
In October 2009, the US, France and Russia struck a multilateral nuclear fuel deal with Iran stipulating that Iran would export more than 1,200kg of its 3.5 per cent low-enriched uranium to Russia for refining. Russia would then enrich the uranium to 20 per cent purity and France would then turn the enriched uranium into fuel rods, which are difficult to turn into weapons-grade uranium. In late October 2009, Tehran claimed the deal needed further negotiations and demanded changes to the deal hinting that it would only export the fuel in small batches while simultaneously importing higher-grade fuel. This suggestion contradicted a fuel deal between France, Russia, the US and Iran as well as a preliminary talks from an October 1, 2009 meeting in Geneva between Iran and the E3+3—Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany. Exact dates for further fuel deal talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1) have not yet been set. In late November 2009, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters that although Tehran is not opposed to sending its low-enriched uranium abroad for further enrichment, the Foreign Ministry wants a 100 percent guarantee that there will be a simultaneous exchange for fuel for its nuclear reactor on Iranian soil.
In late November 2009, the IAEA passed a rebuke of Iran for building a second enrichment plant in secret, 25 votes to three. France supported the resolution. The resolution by the 35-member IAEA Board of Governors called on Iran to halt uranium enrichment and immediately freeze the construction of its Fordo nuclear facility, located near Qom. Ahmadinejad stated that he believed “some people were deceived” in that they did not receive proper “analysis” of the issue, adding that any sanctions would have minimal effect and world powers would not think about launching an attack on Iran.
In December 2009, an anonymous senior US official announced that a meeting by the P5+1 (including the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) on Iran’s nuclear program had been canceled due to China’s opposition, though the remaining five still planned to talk by conference call.  In late December, representatives from France, along with other P5+1 members, adjourned their telephone consultation about Iran’s nuclear program but did not announce when they will ask the UNSC to consider measure to increase pressure on Iran. U.S. ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said it was premature to discuss possible new sanctions, but the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany were mulling “a range of alternatives.”
In the early part of January 2010, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki warned the West that it had one month to accept Iran’s counterproposal to the October UN offer, after which time Iran would enrich its stockpile of low enriched uranium to 20 percent, though it is unclear if it has the technical ability to accomplish this task. Although Mottaki did not say exactly the terms of Iran’s counter offer, in the past Iran has suggested a simultaneous uranium swap either on Iranian territory or in Turkey, though the West rejected this offer because it would not delay Iran’s ability to produce a weapon, should it choose to do so. Mottaki’s comments were broadcast on state television and presented as an ultimatum to the West just two days after Iran missed a deadline set by the United States and its allies to accept the October UN deal.
In mid-January 2010, the P5+1 (including the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) agreed that the Iranian response to proposals to altering its nuclear development program had been inadequate and that it warranted consideration of further measures by the United Nations Security Council. In spite of this negative response from the P5+1, a couple days later, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki announced that he saw signs of progress, stating that, “there are some minor signs indicating a realistic approach, so any probable developments or progress can be discussed later.” Soon thereafter, French President Nicholas Sarkozy said that the United Nations should adopt “strong measures against Iran to persuade Iranian leaders to engage in meaningful discussion about their nuclear program. He added that “to hesitate or to prevaricate in the face of such an issue would carry with it a great weight of responsibility. The only aim of sanctions is to lead Iran to the negotiating table.”
In early February 2010, Western diplomats told Reuters that officials at the US State Department have circulated a paper outlining possible new sanctions to senior foreign ministry officials in London, Paris and Berlin, as the US, the United Kingdom, France and Germany are working to blacklist Iran’s central bank and firms linked to the Revolutionary Guard Corps. These countries were hoping to reach an agreement with Russia and China by the end of February.
In March 2010, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said France remained determined to get UN backing for sanctions targeting Iran’s Nuclear Program but indicated that the support of Russia and China among the five permanent Security Council members was some way off. He said UN Council members are“talking, trying to get an agreement by negotiation and at the same time working on sanctions. I believe that yes, before June it will be possible, but I am not sure.” French and Finnish ministers added that if a vote fails, European states could take unilateral measures instead.
In late March 2010, French President Nicolas Sarkozy discussed the Iranian nuclear program with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon; however, it was not specified which Iranian issues Sarkozy and Ban discussed in particular.[39
Also in late March 2010, senior diplomats from Britain, the U.S., France, Germany, Russia, and China agreed that they should press for a new round of sanctions against Tehran.
On April 14, 2010, the P5+1, that is the U.S., the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany, held a second round of talks concerning new sanctions against Iran for its refusal of negotiations pertaining to Tehran’s nuclear program. Russian and Chinese United Nations ambassadors both expressed a high level of constructive consultation, and noted that there would be more talks in the near future.
In late April 2010, French President Nicholas Sarkozy traveled to Beijing in an attempt to convince China of backing new sanctions against Iran.
In May 2010, the P5+1, that is France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China, and the U.S., reached a new agreement regarding sanctions against Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described this agreement as a “strong draft” of a resolution. The new agreement, with the change in Russian and Chinese decision to sign on to a new round of sanctions, came after Turkey and Brazil brokered a nuclear swap deal with Iran. The Turkey-Brazil proposal would allow Iran to enrich uranium at a considerably high level of purity, that is, higher than levels permitted by international law. Initially, Sarkozy welcomed the agreement for a fuel swap between Iran and Turkey and even announced that he would discuss it with the P5+1 members. Sarkozy office stated: “France will examine this will examine this with the Group of Six and is ready to discuss without preconceptions all its implications for the whole of the Iran dossier.”
In late June 2010, during G-8 talks when world leaders met in Ontario, the leaders of France, Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States issued a statement concerning Iran’s nuclear program: “We are profoundly concerned by Iran’s continued lack of transparency regarding its nuclear activities and its stated intention to continue and expand enriching uranium, including to nearly 20 percent.”
France has unilaterally reduced its economic cooperation with the Islamic Republic beyond the requirements of UN Security Council sanctions. It has supported EU sanctions against some of Iran’s major banks for their connections to Iran’s nuclear program.  In May 2008, the chief executive of France’s Total oil and gas company, Christophe de Margerie, told the Financial Times that his company would not implement a lucrative gas deal because of the risks in investing in Iran. Yet, outside of its support of UNSC and EU sanctions against Iran, France has continued to trade with the Islamic Republic, resisting American pressure to further scale back its bilateral trade. 
In May 2009, the head of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organizations, Mehdi Ghazanfarni, told Iranian reporters that France was one of Iran’s main trade partners in 2008. Media reports from Iran have stated that France and Iran held talks in April 2008 to discuss a petrochemical contract worth roughly 1 million euros; the reports also claimed that Iranian exports to France have actually increased due to oil and manufactured goods sales.  Highlighting cooperation in the field of energy, Head of the National Iranian Oil Company Seyfollah Jashnsaz said in July 2009 that Iran would welcome the participation of France’s Total oil company in the development of the South Pars gas field. According to Jashnsaz, however, Total had lost its position as Iran’s main foreign partner after the French oil giant succumbed to political pressure by the United States government to decrease involvement with Iran.
In 2009, the United States Congress passed legislation requiring the US administration to publish a report of all companies doing business with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its affiliates. The French-based company Total S.A. was among the companies listed as Iran’s biggest refined petroleum suppliers.
Although France continues to maintain an embassy in Tehran and conduct official state relations with the Islamic Republic, the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program has significantly hampered relations between the two states. Much of France’s interaction with Iran now involves multilateral negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, either as part of the EU-3 with Germany and the UK, or multilaterally as part of the UN. In June 2009, the G8 held a meeting in Trieste, Italy to discuss security in Pakistan and Afghanistan. At the meeting, the G8 demanded “that violence [in Iran]…cease immediately” and called upon Iran to find peaceful solutions to the political crisis.
In June 2009, Iranian authorities arrested Clotilde Reiss, a French woman teaching and studying at Iran’s Isfahan University, for espionage. President Sarkozy has demanded the release of the arrested teacher; describing the detention as a “kidnapping”, he added that “no one can accept” the arrest of French nationals “under the pretext of espionage.” Tensions between Iran and France were strained further when, in July 2009, French President Nicolas Sarkozy backed the United Kingdom’s call for firm EU action following the detention of several local staff members of the British Embassy in Tehran; Sarkozy argued that a strong response was required “so that Iranian leaders will really understand that the path that they have chosen will be a dead end."
Despite Sarkozy’s strong diplomatic stance against Iran, the French president has warned against military action against the Islamic Republic. In July 2009, Sarkozy declared that an Israeli attack “would be an absolute catastrophe.” He added that, "Israel should know that it is not alone and should follow what is going on calmly."
In January 2010, Tehran urged the French authorities to free an Iranian engineer facing extradition to the US for allegedly breaking the trade embargo on Iran. The US says that Majid Kakavand sent electrical components and measuring devices bought in the US to Iran via a company in Malaysia, though Kakavand’s legal team said that the equipment was not of a high enough standard to be used in the defence or space industries. Both Iranian and French authorities have rejected the possibility of swapping Kakavand for Clotilde Reiss, the French researcher who is on trial over taking part in the anti-government protest during the post-election unrest in July.
Also in April 2010, as U.S. prosecutors from the Justice Department sought extradition of Majid Kakavand; however, the French court blocked this attempt as French government lawyers argued that Kakavand’s case did not violate sanctions. Kakavand is an Iranian man who ran a Malaysian company that circumvented sanctions placed upon Iran by purchasing sensitive military and commercial products and sending them to Iran from Malaysia. He was arrested while on vacation in France. The French lawyers argued that these sensitive products “were not classified as for dual-use: civilian and military uses,” and Kakavand’s company was no exporting the products in violation of sanctions against Iran. In early May 2010, French courts decided against Kakavand’s extradition to the United States on the grounds that he had not violated French law and that the equipment was not purely military in nature.