Foreign Minister Zarif Criticizes EU ‘Extremism’ Towards Iran

Iran’s foreign minister slammed the European Union for “extremism” in relationship to Tehran in an interview published Monday ahead of a meeting with his French counterpart, Radio Farda reports.

“In order to keep the United States in the Iran nuclear deal, European countries are suffering from extremism and this will ultimately undermine Europe’s policy,” Mohammad Javad Zarif told reformist newspaper Etemad.

France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian arrived in Tehran early Monday for talks, with Europe pushing for pledges over Iran’s ballistic missile programme. It is the first visit by one of the European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal since U.S. President Donald Trump set an ultimatum that he would abandon it if it was not “improved”.

But Zarif warned in the interview that “any action to satisfy the party that has most violated the nuclear agreement is useless”.

“At present, two groups have violated the nuclear deal: the United States and the Europeans. The Americans because of Washington’s policy and the Europeans because of the U.S. policy. The Europeans, because of the policy of the U.S. could not meet their commitments, especially in the banking sector. Therefore these two groups are not in a position to set conditions for the country that has fully implemented its commitments,” he said.

Le Drian’s team has made it clear to Tehran that he is no “emissary of Donald Trump”, and wants to preserve the nuclear deal. But France’s top diplomat has said that without an end to ballistic missile tests by Iran, it will “always be suspected, with reason, of wanting to develop nuclear weapons”.

Tehran denies seeking nuclear arms and says its missiles are purely defensive and not up for discussion.

Referring to recent Western media reports claiming Iran and the West have started a dialogue on Iran’s missile program, Iran’s foreign minister said that holding talks on Yemen does not mean starting negotiation on issues in other fields. Zarif also hit out at the “error” by European nations including France and the United Kingdom of backing regional rival Saudi Arabia as it heads a coalition fighting rebels in Yemen.

Speaking in Tehran after meeting with National Security and Foreign Policy of Iranian Parliament on Sunday, Mohammad Javad Zarif said “talks on regional issues, in particular, the issue of the crisis in Yemen is an old one,” adding “we have repeatedly stated that if the European side is serious about negotiating regional problems, we are also ready.”

The foreign minister added that “regarding Yemen issue, the Islamic Republic of Iran, several weeks after the start of the aggression of the Saudi regime offered a four-article plan that the Europeans also knew about,” adding “we believe that the Yemeni crisis should be resolved peacefully.”

Zarif added that “in the meantime, we had discussions with Europeans to change the way of supporting such aggressive regimes long time ago, therefore, this does not mean that we have entered into negotiations on another area.”

Regarding the nuclear deal, the foreign minister stated that Iran has always abided by its commitments, and it is up to the other party to act according to its obligations. In response to a question about Reuters’s claim that Iran had had talks with countries such as Germany, Britain, and Italy on the sidelines of the Munich Summit, Zarif said Iran has had talks with Europeans since the 1990s on various regional issues.

Referring to the sanctions on Iran’s banking relations. the foreign minister concluded that the other side says that sanctions on Iran’s banks belong to the private sector, but the Islamic Republic of Iran does not consider these answers to be convincing.