Iran and France close to exchanging ambassadors

The year delay in diplomats was caused by Iranian plots to attack opposition groups in France

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian leaves the Elysee Presidential Palace after attending a weekly cabinet meeting on February 13, 2019 in Paris. / AFP / LUDOVIC MARIN
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Iran and France are close to exchanging ambassadors the foreign ministry in Paris has said, ending a year-long delay over claims intelligence officials from Tehran had planned attacks in the French capital.

The comments come as the US convenes a meeting in Warsaw with scores of officials from around the world to discuss the Middle East, particularly Tehran’s influence. France and Germany have not sent ministers to attend the controversial summit and publically criticise US president Donald Trump’s stance on Iran.

Since pulling out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal last year, Mr Trump 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 regional meddling.

Even though France and Germany have led efforts to maintain the nuclear deal, rolling out an alternative trading mechanism that will be immune to US sanctions, Paris has had its own issues with Iran.

As well as criticising the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program and urging dialogue to limit the scope, French authorities also uncovered Iranian plans to assassinate opposition figures in Paris.

"We protested vigorously against an attempted attack that was stopped in the Paris region which led us to suspend the nomination of our ambassador to Tehran and Tehran responded reciprocally," Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told parliament's foreign affairs committee.

"But we are close to reaching a conclusion on this situation as long as [Iran] keeps to the 2015 [nuclear] deal."

France in October said there was no doubt Iran's intelligence ministry was behind a June 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.

Those sanctions have since been adopted at European Union level after further accusations against Iran for plotting attacks elsewhere in Europe.