Iran accuses France of ‘meddling’ as ties strain over unrest

In a tense exchange, Iran’s top diplomat has accused Paris of being intentionally confrontational while his French counterpart piled pressure on Iran over the detention of French nationals.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Wednesday that France was meddling in his country’s affairs and taking a confrontational approach toward the Islamic Republic as tensions between the two sides worsen.

In a phone call with his French counterpart Catherine Colonna, the Iranian minister warned that Tehran’s response will be “immediate and effective,” according to a report by the government-run IRNA news agency. Amir-Abdollahian claimed that Paris was “instigating riots” in Iran, using the state’s verbiage for the ongoing anti-government protests in the country that were sparked in mid-September by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of hijab-enforcing police.

France has been an outspoken critic of the Islamic Republic’s response to the unrest, in which at least 527 protesters have been killed, as documented by the foreign-based Human Rights Activists News Agency. At least four protesters are known to have been executed so far.

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Paris and its European allies have slapped Iran with multiple sanctions packages over human rights violations committed during the crackdown.

“Do not follow Trump’s failed policy,” Amir-Abdollahian said, alluding to the “maximum pressure” policy pursued by former US President Donald Trump against Tehran and his administration’s backlisting of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. The same designation has been proposed by the European Parliament to member states in response to the IRGC’s role in the repression.

The Iranian government, according to its foreign minister, “will monitor the EU’s behavior carefully and will accordingly take steps.” On the day of the ministers’ conversation, Tehran sanctioned 33 European officials and entities in a move described by Amir-Abdollahian as “reciprocal action.”

Tensions between France and Iran have been particularly simmering over the case of at least seven French nationals arrested and held by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry and the IRGC intelligence organization. Iran accuses those individuals of involvement in the unrest. However, Colonna told her Iranian counterpart that they were being held “hostage,” according to the French Foreign Ministry’s official account on Twitter.

She demanded the release of the seven who were “detained arbitrarily.” The French top diplomat also renewed “our condemnation of Iran’s repression” against protesters and called on Tehran to respect international law.

Of the seven French nationals, two are known to have been captured months before the ongoing unrest. Back in May, Iran’s state media aired footage of what the Intelligence Ministry said was “confessions” by two French citizens — Cecile Kohler and Chuck Paris — of their efforts to fuel demonstrations by Iranian teachers.

Iran does have a long record of arresting and prosecuting foreign nationals in what critics and Western states term blackmail and hostage-taking tactics to coerce concessions in foreign policy.

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