Monday, 29 May, 2017

Amid Trump immigration row, France doubles visas for Iranians in 2017

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France plans to double the number of visas it issues to Iranians in 2017, partly in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban order against nationals from Iran and six other countries.

“France wants to be able to allow a larger number of Iranians wishing to travel to France to ask for a visa in improved conditions,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Monday in Tehran, at a time when US travel curbs have angered Iran.

“This project, which aims to double the number of visas currently issued for Iran, should take effect in the summer of 2017,” he said at the French ambassador’s residence in Tehran.

Speaking to the French expatriate community in Iran’s capital, Tehran, Jean-marc Ayrault said discrimination was not the answer to terrorism.

“The welcoming of refugees is a duty and question of solidarity,” Ayrault said. “Terrorism doesn’t have a nationality and discrimination is not a response.”

The measure also comes as France seeks to deepen bilateral ties with Iran after the lifting of Iranian sanctions in 2015.

France issued about 40,000 visas to Iranians in 2016, a French diplomatic source said, adding that the visas would cover tourism, students and work.

Ayrault is in Iran to reassure Tehran of France and Europe’s support for the nuclear deal. The deal was brokered two years ago by the United States, Russia, China, Britain, Germany and France.

Paris took one of the hardest lines against Tehran in the negotiations, but has been quick to restore trade ties.

Major French corporations including planemaker Airbus, oil major Total and automobile manufacturers Peugeot and Renault have all signed deals.

Even before the visa ban row, Iranian officials say that concerns about what the U.S. president might do was increasing investor uncertainty and slowing post-sanctions business.

The visit may see some new contracts finalised.

It will also provide an opportunity for talks on Syria. Paris is a vociferous opponent of Iran’s backing of Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad.

“We will discuss our disagreements, notably on Syria. “We had hoped Iran would be less aggressive in the region,” Ayrault said, referring to the period since the nuclear deal.

On Sunday, Trump spoke by telephone with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, a close U.S.-ally in the Middle East. A White House statement said the two leaders agreed on the need to address “Iran’s destabilizing regional activities.”

Reuters contributed to this report

Photo: French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault speaks during a joint press conference with his German counterpart in Paris on January 28, 2017. 

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