Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on January 17 lashed out at claims from French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian made in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche that Iran is building up its potential capacity to develop nuclear weapons.
“Dear colleague: You kick-started your cabinet career with arms sales to Saudi war criminals. Avoid absurd nonsense about Iran,” Zarif said in a Twitter post, in which he tagged his French counterpart @JY_LeDrian.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s government has come under fire from some nations and rights groups for supporting Saudi Arabia’s regional actions partly by permitting weapons sold to Riyadh to be potentially used in its Yemen conflict operations.
“Reality check: YOU are destabilising OUR region. Stop protecting criminals who chainsaw their critics and use YOUR arms to slaughter children in Yemen,” Zarif tweeted, referring to Le Drian’s previous post as French defence minister.
Tehran, which has always denied having any intention to make a nuclear bomb despite the belief of UN officials that it did once have a programme to develop the capability to do so, has also rejected a January 16 statement from France, Germany and Britain that warned the Islamic Republic against commencing work on uranium metal-based fuel for a research reactor. Such a move would violate the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major nations and would have serious military implications, they said.
Zarif criticised France, Germany and Britain—which remain in the deal with China and Russia—for failing to enforce the accord since May 2018, when US President Donald Trump abandoned the agreement, designed to limit the Iranians’ nuclear development programme in return for a shield against major sanctions, and introduced sanctions on Iran unprecedented in their scope and impact.
“E3 leaders—who rely on [the] signature of OFAC [US Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control] functionaries to carry out their obligations under JCPOA [the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—the formal name of the nuclear deal]—have done ZILCH to maintain JCPOA. Remember @EmmanuelMacron’s stillborn initiative or UK non-payment of court-ordered debt? JCPOA is alive because of Iran and not E3 [France, Germany and Britain],” Zarif tweeted.
US President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office on January 20, has said he will return the US to the nuclear deal “if Iran resumes strict compliance” with the agreement. In reaction to Trump’s “maximum pressure” sanctions policy, Iran has gradually breached many of the deal’s restrictions, arguing that because of Europe’s inaction it was not receiving any of the JCPOA benefits it was promised. Tehran has said it could quickly reverse those breaches if Washington first lifts its sanctions.