PARIS (Reuters) – France does not need the permission of other states to try to defuse tensions with Iran, its foreign minister said on Friday after US President Donald Trump accused President Emmanuel Macron of sending “mixed signals” to Tehran.
“France speaks for itself on Iran as a sovereign power,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a written statement.
“France is deeply committed to peace and security in the region, is committed to de-escalating tensions and does not need any authorization to do so.”
Trump on Thursday had said no one was permitted to speak to Iran on behalf of the United States, after a report this week said Macron had invited Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani to this month’s G7 summit to meet the US president.
A French diplomat denied the invitation had been made.
Washington’s major European allies Britain, France and Germany have been at odds with the Trump administration over Iran since last year, when Trump pulled the United States out of an international deal to give Iran access to world trade in return for curbs to its nuclear program.
While the Europeans say they share US concerns about Iran’s regional behavior and missile program, they believe pulling out of the nuclear agreement was a mistake.
In recent months the United States has sharply tightened sanctions on Iran with the aim of halting its oil exports. The Europeans have warned that heightened confrontation could lead to an accidental war in the Gulf.
Le Drian did not make a direct reference to Trump’s remarks. The diplomatic sparring is the latest in a series of terse exchanges between Washington and Paris ahead of the G7 meeting later this month.
In late July, Trump blasted the “foolishness” of Macron for pressing ahead with a tax on big tech companies, and threatened to tax French wines in retaliation. One French minister called Trump’s comments “completely moronic”.
Iran will be a hot-button topic at the G7 summit in Biarritz. The European countries still hope to salvage the nuclear deal, although Iran has begun to scale down its cooperation with it in response to US sanctions.
Britain was drawn deeper into the confrontation last month when it seized an Iranian tanker accused of violating sanctions on Syria. Iran responded by seizing a British tanker. London has since said it will join a US-led mission to boost security in the Gulf; France and Germany have so far held back.
“The aggravation of tensions requires political initiatives that create the conditions for dialogue. That’s what President Macron is doing, in all transparency,” Le Drian said. “He is of course keeping the US authorities informed.”
Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Peter Graff
Image: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks during a news conference at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, Brazil July 29,2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado