French President Macron Urges Firm Stance on Iran

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday he wanted to remain firm on Iran regarding its ballistic missile program and influence in the Middle East, but warned regional countries against exacerbating rising tensions, Reuters reports.

The French leader arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday for a two-day visit that will see him inaugurate a new Louvre museum, hold talks on the geopolitical situation with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, before ending his trip in Dubai to attend an economic forum. In an interview with the government-linked al-Ittihad newspaper posted on the French embassy website, Macron repeated his country’s stance that there was no alternative to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

“At the same time, it is also important for us to remain firm with Iran with regard to its regional activities and its ballistic missile program,” Macron was quoted as saying.

With tensions mounting in Lebanon following the resignation of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and an attempted ballistic missile strike on Riyadh by Houthi rebels in Yemen, Macron warned about an escalation in the region.

“Today, more than ever, we need a region of peace and responsible regional actors working for the stability of the Middle East. The opening of an additional front would only exacerbate tensions and further destabilize the region,” Macron said.

President Macron said Thursday that the ISIS group faced complete military defeat in Iraq and Syria within months but warned the battle against militants would go on. He was speaking after Syrian troops and allied militiamen broke into the ISIS-held town of Albu Kamal on the Iraqi border, edging closer to ousting the militants from their last urban stronghold in the country following their loss of Deir ez-Zor, Mayadeen and their de facto capital Raqqa.

“We have won in Raqqa and the coming weeks and months, I am quite sure, will allow us to achieve complete military victory in the Iraq-Syria theatre,” Macron told French naval personnel deployed in Abu Dhabi for the war against ISIS.

“But that won’t be the end of this struggle. Long-term stabilization and combating terrorist groups will be indispensable complements to the inclusive and pluralist political solution we want to see emerge in the region.”

EU member countries Britain, France and Germany remain firm backers of the Iran nuclear agreement and have criticized U.S. President Donald Trump for threatening to scrap it. Trump recently refused to recertify Iran’s compliance with the deal, leading France to warn that scrapping the deal would help hardliners and be a step towards future war.

In addition to its nuclear aspirations, Iran’s ballistic missile program remains a concern as well. The Islamic Republic has several times test-fired ballistic missiles in recent months, raising the ire of the West. The United States has already imposed sanctions on Iran, saying its missile tests violate UN resolutions. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has stressed that Iran will continue to produce missiles for its defense and does not consider that a violation of international agreements.