French trade delegation in Iran to boost business ties
A French trade delegation arrived in Tehran Monday to try to restore business ties with Iran, ahead of a possible comprehensive nuclear deal between the Islamic republic and world powers.
Some 107 representatives from the French employers' union Medef travelled to Iran, with official news agency IRNA calling it the biggest "French and European economic and business delegation" to visit the country.
A deal reached with world powers on Iran's nuclear programme -- which the West charges is aimed at developing an atomic bomb, which Tehran denies -- in November has raised hopes biting Western sanctions on the oil-rich country could be lifted.
"A new chapter has opened in the relations of Iran and Europe," IRNA quoted Mohammad Nahavandian, President Hassan Rouhani's chief of staff, as saying.
While no contracts will be signed during the trip because of the international sanctions still in place, the visit is seen as a first step towards regaining a foothold in the country.
Thierry Courtaigne, vice president of Medef, told AFP that the business delegates "were informed from the start about the visit, about the interim agreement. You don't play around with reality".
The visit, which comes after delegations from Italy, Germany, Austria, Portugal and South Korea travelled to Iran, will last until Wednesday.
The French trade delegates are slated to meet their Iranian counterparts on Tuesday, but no meetings have been scheduled with politicians.
The delegation includes representatives from top French businesses, such as automobile giants Peugeot and Renault, major players in Iran's auto industry until last year, as well as energy giant Total.
Iran clinched an interim deal in November with the P5+1 group -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany -- under which it agreed to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for limited sanctions relief.
Iran is set to resume negotiations with the P5+1 in Vienna on February 18.
© 2014 AFP