France, Iran talk about nuclear deal, Macron asks for release of prisoners

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French President Emmanuel Macron insisted on “the need to accelerate” the process to “achieve progress” in the Iranian nuclear talks.

During a “long exchange” with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raissi, Emmanuel Macron stressed “the need for Iran to demonstrate a constructive approach and return to the full implementation of its obligations”.

“On the 2015 nuclear agreement, the President of the Republic reiterated his conviction that a diplomatic solution is possible and imperative, and stated that any agreement will require clear and sufficient commitments from all parties, which France is working on with all its partners,” the French presidency said in a statement on Sunday.

The Iranian presidency said in a statement that “in the negotiations, the Islamic Republic has demonstrated its willingness and seriousness to reach an agreement, and any effort by the other side in this regard should include the lifting of sanctions, verification and a meaningful guarantee.”

On Friday, France had said that the negotiation could “succeed”, while talks between the West and Tehran in Vienna were paused for the participants to return to their respective capitals for consultations and instructions to return next week.

Tehran this week reported “progress in the right direction” although “important issues remain” that require “political decisions from Washington”.

The talks resumed at the end of November in the Austrian capital after a five-month break between Iran and the countries still party to the agreement concluded in 2015, which include France, the UK, Germany, Russia, and China.

The aim of the talks is to reinstate the US, which withdrew from the pact in 2018, as well as to bring Iran back into compliance with its commitments.

The 2015 deal offered Iran relief from international sanctions in exchange for drastically limiting its nuclear programme, which is under strict UN control, and guarantees that it is not seeking to acquire a nuclear bomb, as it has always claimed.

Macron asks for release of French detainees

French President Emmanuel Macron called for the “immediate release” of a French-Iranian researcher imprisoned in Iran, officials said on Sunday.

Macron made the plea in a “long” phone call on Saturday with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, according to a statement from the French presidency.

Fariba Adelkhah, a 62-year-old anthropologist, has been detained in Iran since June 2019. She had been under house arrest since October 2020 but was sent back to prison earlier this month.

Adelkhah was given a five-year sentence for “gathering and collusion” against Iran’s security. French authorities said her conviction is “purely political and arbitrary.”

Macron also expressed his “concerns” over the situation of another French national detained in Iran who is on a hunger strike to protest his treatment, according to the French presidency’s statement.

Benjamin Brière, 36 has been sentenced to eight years in prison on what his lawyer said are trumped-up espionage and propaganda charges.

Brière was arrested in May 2020 after taking pictures in a desert area where photography is prohibited and asking questions on social media about Iran’s obligatory Islamic headscarf for women.

Rights groups accuse hard-liners in Iran’s security agencies of using foreign detainees as bargaining chips for money or influence in negotiations with the West. Tehran denies it, but there have been prisoner exchanges in the past.

In March 2020, Iran and France swapped French researcher Roland Marchal for Iranian engineer Jalal Ruhollahnejad.

The call between Macron and Raissi also “allowed for the discussion of regional issues and in particular the situation in Lebanon and security in the Gulf”, the French presidency added.

In this regard, Macron once again “strongly condemned the recent attacks on the United Arab Emirates” and “the two heads of state agreed on the need to find a political solution to the conflict in Yemen”.

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