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France hits back at President Trump on Iran tensions

France has hit back at United States President Donald Trump after he criticised the country for commenting on growing tensions in the Persian Gulf.

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that France “needs no permission” to express itself over the situation in the Persian Gulf.

Iran has been accused of seizing oil tankers and smuggling oil on crucial shipping routes including in the Strait of Hormuz, in alleged contravention of international law.

The situation has been called a “tit-for-tat response” to increased sanctions, diplomatic isolation and suppressed oil sales - principally by the United States - towards the country.

The United States is reportedly pushing for a new nuclear deal with Iran that would be seen as more favourable to US interests, but Iran has so far reportedly refused to accept any moves towards this, and called the latest sanctions “petty and provocative”.

It has asked that European countries help to offer relief from the sanctions.

While Europe has been clear that it hopes to maintain the current nuclear deal, its ability to make significant improvements to the state of Iran’s sanction-crippled economy has been slight, and Germany specifically has declined to help the United States escort oil tankers through the Gulf.

On Thursday August 8, President Trump tweeted on the subject, saying that “Iran is in serious financial trouble”.

He continued: “[Iran] want [sic] desperately to talk to the U.S., but are given mixed signals from all of those purporting to represent us, including President Macron of France...I know Emmanuel [Macron] means well, as do all others, but nobody speaks for the United States but the United States itself. No one is authorized in any way, shape, or form, to represent us!”

But France has denied that it requires any kind of authorisation to comment on the situation, and defended its position.

Mr Le Drian said: “On Iran, France is expressing itself with sovereignty. We are strongly pushing for peace and security in the region, and we are working to allow a de-escalation of tensions. We need no ‘permission’ to do this.

“France is loyal to the Vienna Convention, which prevents nuclear proliferation. We respect that signature, as do other countries under the Convention, except the United States, and we strongly ask Iran to conform to its obligations.

“The heightening of tensions requires political initiatives to create the conditions for negotiation. That is what President Macron is doing, in total transparency with our partners, first and foremost the European signatories. He is of course keeping US authorities informed.”

Mr Le Drian concluded: “All of our efforts must come together to avoid this tense situation from becoming a dangerous confrontation.”

President Trump has also called for talks with Iran, and is said to have invited Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to meet in Washington DC. The latter reportedly declined the offer. Iran has so far refused to negotiate with the United States, on pain of further sanctions.

In July, President Macron commented on the issue, after having spoken to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the telephone.

President Macron said: “It is France’s role to make all the effort necessary so that all parties concerned accept a pause [in operations] and open negotiations.”

The Elysée Palace has this week said that Mr Macron “remains in contact” with his counterparts in both the United States and Iran.

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