French President Emmanuel Macron has expressed concern on Thursday about Iran’s ballistic missile program saying it should be restricted either through negotiations or possible sanctions.
Accusing Iran for the missile fired from Yemen and intercepted by Saudi Arabia on Saturday, Macron said, “There are extremely strong concerns about Iran. There are negotiations we need to start on Iran’s ballistic missiles.”
The French president was speaking at a news conference held in Dubai at the end of his visit to United Arab Emirates and before heading to Saudi Arabia for a surprise visit.
“Like what was done in 2015 for the nuclear activities, it’s necessary to put a framework in place for Iran’s ballistic activities and open a process, with sanctions if needed, of negotiation that would enable (that),” Macron said and added, “The missile which was intercepted by Saudi Arabia launched from Yemen, which obviously is an Iranian missile, shows precisely the strength of their” program.
While backing the Shiite rebels known as Houthis in Yemen, Iran has denied providing ballistic missiles to them and says its missile program is purely defensive and should not be linked to the nuclear deal.
The ballistic missile launched Saturday night flew near Riyadh’s international airport before Saudi officials said they shot it down.
Macron, however, reaffirmed his support for the nuclear agreement challenged by U.S. President Donald Trump. “If we were to walk away from it, it would lead to either immediate war or an absence of control which would inevitably lead to a North Korean-situation, which I could not accept.”
French president also said, “Iran is a regional power…there should be no naivety in terms of Iran, it is about standing beside our allies, in particular the United Arab Emirates, but it is about not having any policy that could create imbalances, conflicts in the region.”
He emphasized his intention to go to Iran as part of efforts to talk to all the actors in the region.
Macron also told journalists that the decision to go to Riyadh had been made on Thursday morning, and that his talks with the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would include “regional questions, in particular Yemen and Lebanon”.
“I believe it’s important that we work with Saudi Arabia for the purpose of guaranteeing stability in the region and the fight against terrorism,” he said.
According to Reuters, two top Lebanese government officials said on Thursday that Riyadh was holding Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri captive and a third source said that the Saudi authorities had ordered Hariri to resign while he was in Riyadh last weekend, and put him under house arrest.
Saudi Arabia has denied that he is under house arrest, but Hariri himself has not denied that his movements are being restricted.
France has close ties with its former colony and in particular Hariri, who is also a French citizen and spent several years in France. Macron said there had been informal contacts with Hariri, but no request to transfer him to France.
He said he would “emphasize the importance of Lebanese stability and integrity” in his talks in Riyadh, adding: “My wish is that all Lebanese political officials live freely in Lebanon … which means having a very demanding stance on those who could threaten any leader.”
In recent years, France has been able to nurture new links with the Gulf Arab region due to its tough stance on Iran in nuclear negotiations, and the broad similarity of their policies on conflicts across the Middle East.
Related coverage added by The Iranian: Kaveh Afrasiabi, a former adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team, seemed surprised that Macron is trying to rewrite the nuclear deal considering that Paris “did not play a productive role” in the 2015 nuclear negotiations. “There was an element of French [malice] that lengthened the process,” he noted.
“If you want to stop any relation with Iran regarding nuclear activity, you will create a new North Korea,” Macron told Time magazine in an interview published Thursday. “If you stop the 2015 agreement, what’s your other option? To launch war? To attack Iran? I think it would be crazy in the region.”
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