French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, afraid of angering Israel, showed little enthusiasm on the Iran deal. Mr. Fabius, unlike his U.K, U.S. counterparts, did not stay in Geneva to talk to the press. The agreement, he said, “constitutes important progress for security and peace. It confirms Iran’s right to civil nuclear energy but excludes all access to nuclear arms”. He described the agreement as “a first step” but unlike his Iranian and Western counterparts, he failed to give it full-throated approbation, avoiding words like historic or path breaking.
Compared to the words used by U.S. President Barak Obama, who described the deal as “An important first step,” Mr. Fabius’ reaction was lukewarm.
France was the country that initially scuppered the first round of talks on November 12. French President Francois Hollande on a visit to Israel a few days later insisted on four French “red lines” that included placing all Iranian nuclear installations under immediate international supervision, suspension of enrichment to 20 per cent, reducing current Iranian uranium stocks and halting construction of the Arak heavy water plant.
Mr. Fabius’ reluctance to appear more enthusiastic has a great deal to do with pressure exercised by Israel which has denounced the deal as a sell-out to Iran.
Both Israel and Sunni Gulf States, especially Saudi Arabia, had come together and pressured the French to take a hard-line position on Iran. French policies towards Iran since the late 1970s have been those of suspicion, affected by France’s position on Lebanon, Syria and their recent rapprochement with Israel. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have recently offered huge economic contracts to France and these have successfully acted as a carrot, pushing France into further intransigence towards Iran. The fact that France is home to the largest Jewish community in Europe also plays a part in French calculations in the region.