Iran, France ties to get balanced in Macron era

IRNA | Hamdollah Emadi Heydari: Iran and France relations entered a new phase after implementation of the nuclear deal reached between Iran and G5+1 and seems to become more balanced after Emmanuel Macron victory in France presidential elections held on May 7, 2017.

Iran and France official relations go back to the 16th and 17th centuries during the Safavid era. In that historical period, Iran and France trade relations improved and numerous trade contacts were made between the two states. In 1705, France dispatched an Ambassador Extraordinary to Iran.

Tehran and Paris relations enjoyed lots of ups and downs in the Qajar era and a Franco-Persian alliance was formed for a short period between the French Empire of Napoleon I and the Persian Empire of Fath Ali Shah in 1807-1809.

During the Qajar era, in particular, Iran and France cultural relations entered a new phase and many of French books were translated into Persian and there was high cultural exchange between the two states. Several Iranian scholars visited Paris and studied there and helped promotion of cultural exchange between the two nations.

Iran and France relations developed during the Pahlavi era and after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Numerous contracts were inked between Iran and France in technological, scientific and economic sectors and now the two countries have embassys in each other capitals.

In the economic field, with 6.25% of the market share in exports to Iran, France was Iran’s sixth-leading supplier in 2005. Iran is France’s 27th customer (its third-leading customer in the Middle East).

Fifty-five percent of French exports are concentrated in the automotive sector. French companies are also very active in Iran’s oil industry, rail and shipping transport, and the financial sector.

For the most part, imports from Iran are crude oil. Altogether, 3% of French hydrocarbon imports come from Iran.

Iran Khodro Company cooperation with France’s Peugeot dates back to more than two decades ago and seven different Peugeot models accounted for about 64 percent of the total of 542,000 passenger cars and pickups produced by IKCO in 2007. IKCO and Iran’s second-largest car company, Saipa, produce Logan in a joint venture with France’s Renault.

**New page in Iran-France ties
After Iran’s 2013 presidential election which resulted in victory of President Hassan Rouhani, the relations between Tehran and Paris entered a new phase.

Iranian President met with French President Francois Hollande on the sidelines of the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2013 and after that several French economic and political delegations visited Iran.

On the first visit to Iran for 12 years by a French diplomat, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius visited Iran on July 29, 2015 to resume economic and diplomatic ties with Tehran.

President Rouhani’s visit of France in January 2016 which was his first tour of Europe after the nuclear deal opened a new page in Tehran-Paris ties. During the visit, 20 memoranda of understanding (MOUs) and cooperation documents were signed.

President Rouhani on the sidelines of a ceremony held to celebrate the launch of Dena Plus and Peugeot 2008 production lines at Iran Khodro Company on May 2, 2017 praised the achievements made by the country’s auto industry which were gained in cooperation with French auto manufactures, in particular Renault.

**Iran hails Macron victory
Macron, the former minister of economy, industry and digital affairs, was elected French president on Sunday with a business-friendly vision of European integration and wider global community, defeating Marine Le Pen, a far-right nationalist who threatened to take France out of the European Union.

Iran was one of the countries that welcomed victory of Macron from the beginning and various Iranian top officials congratulated the victory.

Iranian President Rouhani and Iran’s Foreign Minister congratulated Macron on his victory in French presidential election.

Iran’s Majlis (parliament) National Security and Foreign Policy Commission spokesman Hossein Naqavi Hosseini in an interview with the media called election of the centrist Macron as new French president ‘a hopeful event’, which could have a positive impact on Tehran-Paris relations.

**Macron approach towards the West Asia
Indeed, Analysts believe that Macron will adopt a more balanced approach towards the West Asian counties including Iran.

Joe Macaron, an analyst working with the Arab Center in Washington D.C said in an article released in the English website of the Doha-based television network Al Jazeera that “Like Obama, Macron has no clear stance on Turkey and wants to put Iran and Saudi Arabia on an equal footing. He seems interested in taking distance from the Persian Gulf countries unlike Sarkozy and Hollande before him. It is yet to be seen if he can get this balanced approach through the French establishment, however he will probably succeed given French economic interests in both the Persian Gulf countries and Iran.”

According to the reports, Macron has a more moderate approach toward the crises in the West Asia including the Syria civil war.

Ben Judah a British analyst wrote in an article published in the US-based Politico newspaper that “Macron is closer to the US view that toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should not be the prerequisite of every move in Syria. His stated focus is to cooperate with the US to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) and al-Qaeda, while attempting to secure a place for France on the table instead of having Washington and Moscow play it alone.”