French President Emmanuel Macron arrives for the EU Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth in Gothenburg, Sweden, November 17, 2017. TT News Agency/Jonas Ekstromer/via REUTERS
ANKARA (Reuters) – Iran accused France on Friday of fuelling tension in the Middle East by taking a “biased” stance on Tehran’s regional policy, and President Emmanuel Macron said Tehran misunderstood its “balanced” position.
“It seems that France has a biased view towards the ongoing crises and humanitarian catastrophes in the Middle East,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by state TV. “This view fuels regional conflicts, whether intentionally or unintentionally.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday France was worried about Iran’s involvement in the Middle East crisis and its disputed ballistic missile programme.
“Iran’s role and the different areas where this country operates worries us,” Le Drian told a joint news conference with his Saudi counterpart Adel Jubeir in Riyadh.
“I am thinking in particular of Iran’s interventions in regional crises, this hegemonic temptation and I’m thinking of its ballistic programme,” he said.
Iran has repeatedly rejected France’s call for talks on its missile programme, saying it is defensive and unrelated to its 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers.
Asked at an EU summit in Gothenburg about Iran’s accusations, Macron said Tehran misunderstood France’s “balanced” position of talking to everyone and not taking sides between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims.
“Our wish is that Iran has a less aggressive strategy in the region and that we can clarify its ballistic missile strategy which seems to be uncontrolled,” he said.
“Iran is a power that we wish to have a dialogue with and that we will continue to talk to.”
Paris suggested this week that new European Union sanctions against Iran could be discussed over its missile tests. But EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini seemed to dismiss that idea on Tuesday.
Shi’ite-dominated Iran and its regional arch-rival Sunni Saudi Arabia are involved in proxy wars across the region, backing opposite sides in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon.
Jubeir told Reuters on Thursday that the kingdom’s actions in the Middle East were a response to what he called the “aggression” of Iran.
Qasemi said Jubeir was repeating baseless claims, the state news agency IRNA reported on Friday.
“Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister’s gestures and his blame game will definitely not reduce the responsibility of this country in undermining the regional stability and security,” Qasemi said.
(Reporting by John Iris in Paris and Parisa Hafezi in Ankara; editing by Andrew Roche