Zarif due in France on Friday, to visit China next week

August 21, 2019 - 20:34

TEHRAN – Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will pay a visit to France later this week for talks with the French president and foreign minister and will fly to China next week.

“I will travel to Paris on Friday to meet French President Emmanuel Macron and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian,” Zarif said late on Monday while in the Swedish capital of Stockholm.

During his Monday statements, Zarif said that he would also visit China “next week”.

Zarif’s Friday host France is a partner to a 2015 deal on Iran’s nuclear program — officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — and has led European efforts to salvage the landmark accord since U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew his country from it last year and re-imposed previous sanctions on Iran and introduced new harsh ones.

Zarif’s visit to Paris will follow two phone conversations between Macron and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran regarding the JCPOA on July 18 and August 6.

Iran has said if the remaining signatories to the JCPOA — France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China — fail to protect Iran from sanctions it will see no reason to remain the only party loyal to the agreement. Since the U.S. abandoned the accord, the European sides have failed to abide by their commitments.

In his whirlwind tour of the region and Scandinavian nations, Zarif has already visited Qatar and Bahrain on the southern shores of the Persian Gulf.
The visits also took place after Britain seized and later released an Iran-operated oil tanker off Gibraltar. Iran called the move “maritime piracy”.

While visiting Qatar and Kuwait, Zarif renewed Iran’s proposal for non-aggression pact with the Persian Gulf littoral states.

Iran has proposed non-aggression pact while the U.S. and Israel have been trying to demonize Iran. The Trump administration has claimed Iran wants to colonize Arab nations and Israel has said Iran wants to revive the Persian Empire.

======== “Fruitful talks”

Zarif concluded his visit to Helsinki late on Monday, where he held talks with Finland’s top officials including President Sauli Niinisto.

Finland currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. 

“Fruitful meetings with current EU presidency, Finnish President, foreign minister and trade minister,” Zarif tweeted. 

After Finland, Zarif visited Stockholm, Sweden, on Monday evening. On Tuesday, he held talks with Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom.

Wallstrom said her talks with Zarif were “frank” and “constructive”.

Zarif also held a meeting with a number of Swedish businessmen. Norway will be the last leg of Zarif’s tour of Scandinavian nations.
Zarif’s meetings with foreign officials are primarily intended to develop bilateral relations, deescalate tension in the Persian Gulf region, and also prevent the collapse of the nuclear deal.
In response to Washington’s exit and Europe’s failure to compensate for the U.S. absence, Iran has, since May 8, twice suspended some of its commitments under the nuclear deal in a retaliatory step based on articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA.

Europe has already missed a July 7 deadline set by Tehran for it to meet its end of the bargain. Tehran has said it will go ahead with the third stage of scaling down its nuclear commitments on September 7 if the European side keeps failing.

Zarif further played down the sanctions recently imposed by the U.S. on him. He said, “America’s sanctions are not pressuring me. They [the Americans] are after sanctioning the [Iranian] people; therefore, we will not use the word ‘sanctions’ anymore, but we will, instead, use the term ‘economic terrorism’” to refer to Washington’s pressure campaign, Zarif said.

In a joint press conference with Finland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Pekka Haavisto in Helsinki on Monday, the top Iranian diplomat said that the Islamic Republic has no interest in engaging in a fresh round of nuclear talks with the United States.

“Iran is not interested in negotiations with the United States to clinch a new nuclear accord,” Zarif said, adding, “We had detailed negotiations with the United States and it was not us who left the negotiating table.”