Despite recent tension in French-Iranian relations, sources at the Elysee Palace continue to say that President Emmanuel Macron would conduct a visit to Tehran early next year.
If the visit takes place, it will be the first of its kind since 1976, prior to the Khomeini revolution, when former President Valery Giscard d'Estaing visited Tehran to meet with the Shah of Iran, and to strengthen economic relations between the two countries.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Paris at the end of January 2016, while Mohamed Khatami, preceded him twice to the French capital: at the end of October 1999 and the beginning of April 2005.
Sources said that both Paris and Tehran were trying to fend off tension, which was confirmed by the recent phone call between Macron and Rouhani on Monday. While Elysee sources gave brief information about the conversation, the Iranian presidency issued a detailed statement on the various issues discussed by the two leaders.
According to the French sources, the telephone call is part of President Macron’s efforts to spare Lebanon a major political crisis following the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his return to Beirut on Wednesday.
On the other hand, the Iranian statement highlighted Tehran’s keenness to reduce tension with the French authorities after the harsh comments made by the Iranian Supreme Leader’s Advisor Ali Akbar Velayati, in response to Macron’s remarks during a press conference in Goteborg, Sweden.
Rouhani sought to reassure the French side, by stressing to Macron that Iran “is not seeking to dominate the region” and that “its presence in Iraq and Syria came at the invitation of the governments of these two countries to fight terrorism.”
However, the main point of contention between France and Iran lies in the Iranian missile program, as Paris seems very close to the US stance on the issue, and even went to refer to the possibility of imposing new sanctions on Tehran on its ballistic program, while the latter has reaffirmed its right to work on its nuclear program as long as it does not seek to acquire a nuclear bomb.