Monday, 29 May, 2017

How does Macron think about France’s relations with Iran and Saudi A.?

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By Vahid Jafarian, Editorial Board Member

Independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, 39, who was unknown three years ago, has become France’s youngest-ever president after an estimated 65% to 35% victory in the second round run-off against Front National’s right-wing leader Marine Le Pen.

Emmanuel Macron is a politician, senior civil servant and former investment banker with Rothschilds. He has served as Deputy Secretary-General and Minister of Economic, Industrial and Digital Affairs under François Hollande’s preside.

Although it is not entirely clear what approach new French president will adopt towards France’s future relations with major regional actors like Iran and Saudi Arabia, a review of his past comments during the election campaign could provide insights into the issue.

Macron’s view on the Middle East crises, and the issues related to Iran in particular, is summarized as follows in an interview:

“Our country (France) must regain its position in the Middle East, especially regarding the resolution of the Syrian crisis. It shall remain engaged in Lebanon. The rapprochement towards Iran must be pursued, if the 2015 nuclear deal is observed, and if Iran plays its part in the stabilization of the region.”

In another interview, Macron has stated that France should “engage talks with [both] Saudi Arabia and Iran” without “interfering in the two countries’ power games”.

His program questions relations between France and Saudi Arabia, unlike the foreign policy of both Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, which were seemingly strongly aligned with the Persian Gulf monarchies.

According to him, “it would be an error to show excessive support of Saudi Arabia, as we (France) have in the past

Macron argues that neglecting or opposing Iran’s national policies would be “an error” which would undermine “the authority of France”.

He adds that while any overtures towards the country would have to continue, it is on the condition that Iran respects the 2015 nuclear agreement and “contributes to regional stability”.

More of the same when it comes to Saudi Arabia, “which should commit to responsible policies and under no circumstances sanction movements promoting violence and terrorism”.

When asked about France’s arms sales to Riyadh, however, the then-candidate dodged the issue, asserting “not that many weapons had been sold”. Yet Saudi Arabia and Qatar buy more French weapons than any other country, with respectively $13bn and $8.7bn each in contracts.

Middle East Eye contributed to this report

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