France and UK reiterate support for Iran nuclear deal
United Kingdom – Iran/Brexit/fight against terrorism – Press conference given by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, with his British counterpart¹
London, 14 May 2018
THE FOREIGN SECRETARY – It’s great to welcome you to London. This is, as everyone knows, an extremely close and historic relationship and I think today it would be fair to say that there was an extraordinary measure of agreement across the whole sweep of foreign policy problems that confront us today.
So, when it comes to Iran and the importance of maintaining the nuclear deal, you have the UK and France shoulder to shoulder in our approach.
When you look at what is happening in Syria, we share a common determination to try to get negotiations going despite all the difficulties that we currently see.
When you look at the disruptive and often malign behaviour of Russia and the question of the use of chemical weapons and use of nerve agent in Wiltshire on 4 March, once again you have incredible solidarity from France and a joint determination on the part of the UK and France to stand together in solidarity against the use of chemical weapons, whether that’s in Wiltshire or in Syria.
I think we had a good discussion on Libya, where we share a common perspective and desire to support Ghassan Salamé and get things moving, and we talked a little bit about mainly the areas in which we are cooperating together to protect our citizens from terrorism, and I repeated my condolences to Jean-Yves for the terrorist attack that took place over the weekend in France, and it is vital that we work together in that respect and we said a little bit about what more we could do.
I mentioned our slight puzzlement about what had happened in the Commission’s decision on Galileo and the satellite but our determination nonetheless to go ahead with a UK satellite if that proved to be necessary. I don’t know what Jean-Yves thought about that but it seems to me a pretty good idea. If we can’t have UK participation, we need to do our own work – a rare example of us doing our own thing. But perhaps France may want to join in that project in due course.
Anyway it was a very, very good and intimate exchange of views and I look forward to seeing Jean-Yves in Paris where we will discuss your excellent initiative against the use of chemical weapons. Sorry, I will also see you tomorrow in Brussels where we will discuss Iran. Anyway, Jean-Yves, welcome to London!
THE MINISTER – Thank you, Boris, for your welcome. As you’ve all realized, we see each other very often. And this week we’re seeing each other today, Monday, tomorrow in Brussels to talk about Iran, and again on Friday to talk about our partnership on the fight against chemical impunity. We see each other very often, in relation to issues central to the world’s security.
The last time I came here for a bilateral meeting was in June last year. We see each other often, everywhere – also in the presence of the French President, but when I came here to London for a direct bilateral meeting with you it was in June, and it was essentially because of the attacks. Do you remember? It was also our first meeting, and unfortunately there have been those attacks and this new attack in France yesterday. I wanted to thank you for your condolences. It also shows the need to continue the fight against terrorism and for security – issues on which we’re totally in step.
So we were able to discuss together all the issues you’ve recalled, whether it be our position on Iran and the need to maintain the JCPOA and the Vienna agreement, because it’s the best way and the only way of guarding against the risks of proliferation. We were also totally in step on our assessment of the situations in Syria, Libya and Yemen. In short, our discussions are not only infused with great mutual trust – even, we can say, personal trust – but also mindful of our two countries’ security interest and the world’s security interest. And on the vast majority of issues, we have a common position, which enables us to discuss things very calmly.
That’s what I wanted to say. Finally, I’m very happy to be here – especially here in this place, Carlton Gardens, where there are memories of the history of the relationship between France and the United Kingdom, particularly with General de Gaulle.
THE FOREIGN SECRETARY – Thank you very much Jean-Yves. You are a great friend to this country and it’s great to see the relationship developing.
Q. – Can I ask first about Iran? What are you prepared to do to save the Iran nuclear deal? What are you going to do to protect British and French firms from US sanctions? What are the proposals you are going to bring forward for Foreign Minister Zarif in Brussels tomorrow? For example, are you prepared to contemplate legal actions at an EU level? Are you prepared even to contemplate counter-sanctions against the United States?
THE FOREIGN SECRETARY – Let me say first of all the UK and France are determined to conserve the essence of the Iran nuclear deal, and when I say the essence of the Iran nuclear deal it’s a trade-off and a sensible trade-off. As Jean-Yves has just said, it is the only really workable way we can see to stop Iran getting a nuclear weapon and the advantage from the Iranian point of view is that they should have some benefits from economic participation, economic engagement with us in the West. What we are going to do tomorrow in Brussels, is we are going to have a conversation on what we can do to help UK firms, help European firms have some confidence that they can still do business. I’m not going to maintain to you now that that will be easy, but we are determined to do that. And as far as we possibly can, to protect our businesses from the effect of American primary and secondary sanctions and as you know, there is a time delay between the imposition of the secondary sanctions and so that gives us a bit of a margin to work on our response. With our French friends, with the Germans and others, we will be thinking exactly how we propose to get on with it. But I want to stress that that does not mean we are in any sense not going to be working with the Americans, it’s vital that we continue to engage with the USA and continue to interrogate our friends in Washington about how they see the Nuclear deal developing. They decided to pull out, we don’t think that’s necessarily the right thing to do given Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA, so we want to hear a little bit more from Washington as well.
THE MINISTER – We regretted this American decision, as we’ve said. We’re remaining in the agreement. We’ve said so and we’re confirming this. The fact that the United States is leaving an international agreement doesn’t mean the international agreement is null and void. We’re staying in the agreement and we want to maintain it. As long as Iran complies with it – currently, as Boris was saying just now, Iran is complying with it –, we’ll stay in the agreement and we intend to ensure not only that our businesses are protected against American sanctions but also that Iran can benefit from the dividends of that agreement, because the agreement is a win-win agreement, a give-and-take agreement. In exchange for nuclear renunciation, there are economic benefits. And so we’re going to talk to our colleague Zarif about this tomorrow. In any case, our position is shared, and it’s united with the German position. That doesn’t prevent us talking to the United States of America and telling it what our position is and how we see the future, with the delay that’s incumbent on us, because there’s a delay of three to six months on the implementation of sanctions.
Q. – And secondly on Brexit, Foreign Secretary, the PM says there will have to be compromise on Brexit, are you prepared to compromise on the new customs partnership, the so called hybrid deal?
THE FOREIGN SECRETARY – I thought the PM wrote an excellent piece yesterday in the Sunday Times and I thought that covered it very well indeed; she said we were going to be coming out of the customs union, taking back control of our borders, our laws and our money… and able to do unhindered free trade deals and I think that was absolutely right that she expressed it in that way.
Q. – But you believe this hybrid deal is dead? That is your view?
THE FOREIGN SECRETARY – Well I hesitate to go back on my previous answer, but I thought the PM’s piece in the Sunday Times really said that very clearly. What we need to do is, as she said, come out of the customs union in such a way as to enable us to have frictionless trade, no hard boarder in Northern Ireland but to do unhindered, unimpeded free trade deals with the rest of the world. We think that’s possible, she thinks that’s possible, so that’s the way forward.
Q. – Your critics say look, if you disagree with the Prime Minister on this issue so fundamentally on this, why do you lack the courage to resign, why are you still in your post when you have been so critical of this position?
THE FOREIGN SECRETARY – As I say, I think the Prime Minister’s position that I have now twice applauded is completely right.
Q. – Twenty-three months on, the referendum; the British government is still making up its mind about its negotiating position. What does France think about it?
THE MINISTER – Things are very straightforward for me. Firstly, I’m not a member of the British government, so I’m not going to address the considerations you talked about earlier. Secondly, there’s a negotiating mandate, a mandate of the 27. France is one of the 27. This mandate is carried out by a negotiator, Michel Barnier. The negotiating mandate has already produced positive results, but we haven’t reached the end yet, and time is coming for decisions to be taken. I think it’s essential, at June’s Council of heads of state and government, for major advances to be made. There was an agreement, an agreement in principle on the withdrawal, but it isn’t fully completed; we now need to move to the definitive decisions. The responsibilities lie with the British party, which knows the proposal and Michel Barnier’s negotiating mandate.
Iran/Paris attack/Chechen President’s remarks
Q. – To come back to Iran, how do you both feel before this important meeting tomorrow? Are you positive about the possibility of keeping the agreement? Are we going to have to create a new one?
Second question, concerning the Chechen President’s remarks about the attack, about the attacker at the weekend, saying that the responsibility lay with France: what’s your response?
THE MINISTER – On the first point, I think our position is one of determination and unity, and a resolve to maintain this agreement, which required 12 years of negotiations, which commits our states as signatories and which makes it possible to prevent a spiral of proliferation. So it must be maintained, and we’re going to make very active efforts, in a climate of unity, to do so. Regarding President Kadyrov, we don’t need to be preached to by a dictator, who doesn’t even begin to respect the rule of law in his own country, and who, incidentally, knows very well that there are thousands of Chechens fighting alongside members of Daesh [so-called ISIL], who have fought and are fighting. So that position is frankly intolerable for us./.
¹ Source of Mr Johnson’s statements: Foreign and Commonwealth Office.