Iran Ready for Any Talks Initiative with Gulf States, Refuses Discussing Missile Program

Iran reasserted its refusal to discuss the file of its missiles program, saying such dialogues would mean “a violation of its defense infrastructure,” a high-ranking Iranian source said on Thursday morning during a meeting organized by the French Institute of International Relations, celebrating the fourth round of the “Political Dialogue” between Iran and France, Asharq al-Awsat reports.

The Paris meeting comes amid tensed relations between France and Iran, expressed lately by mutual accusations, which were the direct cause of postponing the visit of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to Tehran and of suspending talks about a possible visit of President Emmanuel Macron to Iran early next year.

Tehran categorically rejects France’s proposal to open discussions concerning the ballistic and missiles program, because such talks would violate Iran’s defensive and national infrastructure. Therefore, the door is closed to this unofficial French initiative,” the source said.

Concerning Iran’s regional policy, the source seemed more open.

“Tehran is ready to accept any talks initiative with the Gulf States and is ready to discuss all files,” he said.

The Iranian official also added that his country played a leading role in fighting terrorism and in preventing ISIS from arriving in Baghdad, Damascus, and Irbil, and even maybe to Beirut. During the Paris meeting, the Iranian side was headed by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, while the French side was represented by Secretary General of ‎France’s Foreign Ministry Maurice Gourdault-Montagne.

The meeting did not produce any statement from either the French or the Iranian sides, based on a protocol principal. French sources said that the gathering created a chance for holding a wide-range round of talks during which both sides discussed regional hotspots and Iranian-related issues, including the fate of the Nuclear Deal signed with Tehran in the summer of 2015 or its missiles or ballistic programs, in addition to Iran’s regional policies, which spark fears and interrogations.

Meanwhile, Iran appears to be preparing to normalize its relations with Iraqi Kurdistan after two tumultuous months in which it helped Baghdad bring the Kurds to their knees following their ill-fated Sept. 25 independence referendum. Iran has expanded its influence in Iraq by delivering on its promises to Baghdad, and in particular assisting the Popular Mobilization Units in retaking disputed territories from Kurdish forces, just as Iran promised before the referendum.

Iran seems to be doing so by resuming trade with the Kurdistan Region of Iraq after closing its land border crossings, a vital lifeline for the Kurdistan economy.

“We have decided to reopen these two [land border] crossings in one or two days,” Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli told reporters Dec. 17.

Iran had previously opened one of its border crossings into Iraqi Kurdistan on Oct. 25. The day after Fazli’s announcement, Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi announced that all border crossings had been reopened, without offering further details.

Prior to the referendum, Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani warned the Iraqi Kurdish leadership of severe repercussions if the referendum were to take place, as reported by Al-Monitor. Iran did indeed impose an economic blockade on the Kurdistan Region and assisted Iraqi security forces, including the Popular Mobilization Units, in pushing the Kurds out of disputed territories.

Despite the apparent progress in terms of the reopening of the border crossings, sources close to the Iranians told Al-Monitor that Iran is not yet ready to fully normalize its relations with Iraqi Kurds — unless the officials who advocated for the referendum are off the political stage. Given Iran’s increasing influence in Iraq, it appears that the Kurds may have no option but to concede on this point, too.