By Hamed Mohammadi

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif made a surprise visit to the seaside town of Biarritz, France on August 25, where he met and held talks with President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the G7 Summit.

Mr. Zarif traveled to France on an invitation from Mr. Macron, who has led efforts by the European Union to save the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal.

The U.S. delegation at the G7 Summit was reportedly unaware of Zarif’s trip, but during a joint news conference with his French counterpart on Aug. 26, President Donald Trump said Macron had given him prior notice of the Iranian foreign minister’s visit.

Macron has been trying to persuade the U.S. to soften its position on Iran. Iranian media and news websites close to Mr. Zarif have hailed his meeting with Macron and other French officials as a great success. Stopping its ballistic missile program, supporting Shia militias and ending its threats against Israel are the three main preconditions by the EU for engaging Iran in talks.

Mr. Macron has also led efforts by the EU to save the JCPOA.

“The two main components of Mr. Macron’s proposal to the Islamic Republic are the financial incentives added to the INSTEX [Instrument to Support Trade Exchanges, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) established in January 2019 by France, Germany, and the UK to facilitate non-dollar trade with Iran,] and reinstating those sanctions waivers which allowed Iran to sell its oil,” the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported on August 25, citing Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a member of the Majlis’ (Iranian Parliament) National Security Committee. He was speaking during an open session of the Majlis.

“Although tensions over the nuclear issue persist, Iran has changed the argument in such a way that has confused our enemies,” Falahatpisheh added. “Relying on internal resistance, managing foreign relations, adhering to the International laws, and avoiding the enemy’s traps are the main principles of this effective approach.”

“With all due respect to Mr. Zarif, it would appear that the B team [a name given by Zarif to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] is in disarray,” Falahatpisheh noted. “We must, therefore, change our relationship with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and even Saudi Arabia and make things more difficult for Bolton and Netanyahu.”

Falahatpisheh pointed out: “More than a year and a half has passed since the U.S. unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA. Iran has been very patient during this time. Articles of the NPT [Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons] do not prohibit Iran from restoring its nuclear capabilities to the same level it was before the 1993 Geneva Protocol.”

Some political observers argue that the trip to the seaside town of Biarritz, where no French official met Zarif at the airport, must have been a humiliating experience for him. Macron also delayed their meeting because of a prior engagement. French officials have provided no information about the issues discussed in the meeting. According to Zarif, he also met and held talks with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian.

French officials did not observe the customary diplomatic protocols during the foreign minister’s visit to their country. The caption to a cartoon tweeted by Kayhan London read: “Only Iranian diplomats stationed in France greeted Mr. Zarif when he got off the plane.”

An editorial titled “Mr. Zarif, The French Package Is Humiliating,” in the August 24 issue of the hardline Tehran-based newspaper Kayhan, said: “According to a report by Mashregh News, Paris has tabled a deceptive and humiliating proposal which promises that France and the other EU signatories to the JCPOA would provide Iran, respectively, with $5 billion and $10 billion in the form of a letter of credit, within the INSTEX framework, if Tehran was to halt its ballistic missile program, curb its regional activities and limit its nuclear industry permanently.”

[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]