SHAHEEN URGES PRESIDENT OBAMA TO PRESS FRENCH PRESIDENT ON TRADE MISSION TO IRAN

French trade delegation sends the wrong message during nuclear negotiations

February 07, 2014

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is today urging President Obama to use an upcoming state visit from French President François Hollande as an opportunity to press the French leader on the recent French trade mission to Iran, which has the potential to undermine progress toward an agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program. In the letter, Shaheen expressed her concern that such trade missions undercut efforts that have brought Iran to the negotiating table.

“It is critical that the U.S. and our European partners, including France, present a strong, united front in our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” wrote Shaheen. “These trade delegations to Iran risk undermining the international sanctions regime at precisely the wrong time and hinder the ability of P5+1 negotiators to pursue a comprehensive agreement that fully addresses the world’s concerns over the Iranian nuclear program.”

Shaheen’s letter to President Obama follows letters she sent last week to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy as well as ambassadors of Austria, France, Georgia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom that expressed concern over trade missions to Iran. As a member of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee Shaheen closely monitors developments in Iran and has consistently pushed for international cooperation on sanctions as a means of pressing Iran to reach a diplomatic solution to the standoff over its nuclear program.

The full text of Senator Shaheen’s letter to President Obama is included below:

The Honorable Barack Obama

President of the United States

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

CC: The Honorable John F. Kerry, Secretary of State, Department of State

Dear Mr. President,

I write today to respectfully request that you discuss with French President François Hollande the troubling issue of the recent French trade delegation to Iran during his upcoming visit to the United States. 

As you know, the cooperation between the U.S. and France through the P5+1 has been essential to developing an opening with Iran on its nuclear program and to reaching an interim agreement on the Joint Plan of Action (JPoA) last November.

It is this strong partnership with the French that makes the recent news of the French trade delegation’s travel to Iran especially concerning.  This three-day visit, which began on February 3 and was headed by the French employer’s federation Medef, misrepresents the scope of the sanctions relief provided under the JPoA, and sends the wrong message to Tehran and to the rest of the world that sanctions are abating. 

As Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen stated most recently in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “Iran is not open for business.”  On January 30, I conveyed that same message to EU High Representative Ashton and several European ambassadors whose countries had sent or planned to send delegations to Iran, including French Ambassador Delattre.

I was pleased to learn from Under Secretary Cohen that Administration officials are raising these concerns with their foreign counterparts at the highest levels of government.  President Hollande’s visit next week provides yet another opportunity. 

As I know you are aware, it is critical that the U.S. and our European partners, including France, present a strong, united front in our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  These trade delegations to Iran risk undermining the international sanctions regime at precisely the wrong time and hinder the ability of P5+1 negotiators to pursue a comprehensive agreement that fully addresses the world’s concerns over the Iranian nuclear program. 

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Jeanne Shaheen             

United States Senator