Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 25 May 2019

Iran and France to swap ambassadors after strained ties

Officials have named diplomats to fill the seats left vacant for almost a year

People hold a banner and wave former Iranian flags during a demonstration of the exiled Iranian opposition in Paris.  AFP 
People hold a banner and wave former Iranian flags during a demonstration of the exiled Iranian opposition in Paris.  AFP 

Iran and France will exchange ambassadors, officials said on Wednesday, ending a nearly year-long delay over claims intelligence officials from Tehran had planned attacks in Paris.

Philippe Thiebaud, a former envoy to Pakistan who once represented France at the International Atomic Energy Agency has been appointed ambassador to the Islamic republic of Iran, the Official Gazette said on Wednesday.

Bahram Ghasemi, a former envoy to Spain and Italy and current spokesman of the foreign ministry, has been appointed as Iran's new ambassador to France, an official source in Tehran told Agence France-Presse.

The news caused outcry among some of Iran’s conservative contingent.

The Kayhan daily, an ultraconservative Iranian newspaper, called for the expulsion of French diplomats from the country, accusing France of expelling an Iranian diplomat on the basis of a "ludicrous accusation". The publication demanded that the Iranian foreign ministry reciprocate "the insolent and vile behaviour of France in accusing and expelling our diplomat from its soil."

Both diplomats will fill posts that have been vacant for more than six months after a series of diplomatic fallouts between France and Iran broke out last year.

The previous French ambassador left Iran at the end of his mandate in August while Tehran's envoy left Paris last summer before finishing his term. No official reason was given for his abrupt departure.

In June, France accused a branch of Iran's intelligence ministry of attempting to bomb a meeting of the People's Mujahedin, an Iranian opposition group, near Paris.

Tehran vehemently denied the accusations and in return slammed France for hosting the group which it calls a "terrorist cult of hypocrites".

France foiled the plot to attack an exiled opposition group's rally outside Paris and it seized assets belonging to Tehran's intelligence services and two Iranian nationals.

Relations between France and Iran have also been strained over demands by Paris that Iran limits its ballistic missiles programme – which Tehran says is purely defensive.

In May, US President Donald Trump’s administration pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Since then, Washington has ramped up sanctions in a bid to pressure Tehran to end its ballistic missile program – not covered by the 2015 JCOPA deal – and stop meddling in regional affairs.

Although France, along with Germany, has been leading the effort to maintain the deal, Paris regularly criticises Iran’s ballistic missile programme.

On their part, Tehran accused France and Europe of dragging their feet, and criticised France for selling advanced warplanes and other weapons to its regional rivals Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Updated: March 6, 2019 02:04 PM

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