Rouhani Seeks France’s Help to Encourage Foreign Investment in Iran

By Ahmad Majidyar | Fellow and Director of IranObserved Project - The Middle East Institute | May 23, 2017
Rouhani Seeks France’s Help to Encourage Foreign Investment in Iran

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has the new government in France to play a more active role in the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (J.C.P.O.A.), the nuclear agreement that Tehran signed with Washington and five other world powers in 2015. According to the Iranian media, Rouhani praised the French government’s “influential” role in making the nuclear accord possible almost two years ago, whereas he criticized certain other signatories of the deal for not honoring their commitments. “We expect France and the European Union to play a more active role in the implementation of the agreement,” he reportedly told the French President Emmanuel Macron in a telephone conversation today. Rouhani, who just won a second term in Iran’s presidential elections on Friday, also called for boosting bilateral economic and trade ties between Tehran and Paris, and sought France’s help to remove existing obstacles that hinder European companies and banks from doing business with and invest in Iran.

The Iranian media added that Macron congratulated Rouhani on reelection and stressed that the nuclear deal promotes regional and international security – emphasizing that all sides should support and implement the deal.

Comment: Iranian leaders and media outlet celebrated Macron's victory in the French election earlier this month. Rouhani Macron in a telephone call and stressed the need for boosting bilateral ties between the two countries. Iran’s Foreign Ministry also congratulated the French government and people on Macron’s triumph over his populist rival Marine Le Pen. Several Iranian lawmakers expressed the hope that the Macron government will cultivate closer ties with Tehran. Hossein Taghva-Hosseini, the spokesman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the parliament, also emphasized that Tehran should exploit the widening gulf between the European Union and the United States to "work with Brussels to challenge Washington’s unilateralism."

The Iranian media was equally ecstatic. An editorial in Jahan-e Sanat wrote that Macron does not support the removal of the Syrian president and believes “any effort to topple Bashar al-Assad means that the West will itself empower Daesh [Islamic State].” The article added that Macron would also prefer to play a neutral role in the Saudi-Iranian rivalry.

As Rouhani’s remarks and commentary in the Iranian media indicate, Tehran would like to drive a wedge between European countries and Washington in order to encourage investment from European countries. French energy companies and auto manufacturers were among the first to return to the Iranian markets after most nuclear-related sanctions on Iran were removed in January 2016. However, because of existing American and European non-nuclear sanctions on Iran – coupled with the Trump administration’s tougher approach toward the Islamic Republic – French banks have been reluctant to do business with Iran. With a new government in Paris, Tehran hopes that would change.

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