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France-Iran

Fabius delivers presidential invitation to Rouhani as relations post-deal thaw

Irna

France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius arrived in Teheran on Wednesday seeking to revive relations with Iran, after this month's historic nuclear deal. It's the first visit by a top French diplomat in 12 years, and came with an invitation from the Elysée palace for President Hassan Rouhani to visit Paris in November.

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“This visit is an opportunity for both France and Iran to renew ties in a number of areas," declared Laurent Fabius on Wednesday.

"It's true that relations in the past have been strained...but thanks to the nuclear deal, things can now improve."

Eager to turn the page on the past, the French Foreign minister is set to meet with Iranian officials, but also leaders in the business world, where France is vying for a slice in Iran's booming market.

Paris used to have a strong presence in Teheran before sanctions were imposed, with Peugeot and Renault being major players in the the Iranian auto industry and energy giant Total heavily involved in the oil sector.

But two-way trade has fallen from four billion euros in 2004 to just 550 million euros in 2013, according to French statistics.

Speaking to RFI, Alain Joyandet, senator of the Conservative party the Republicans; said he hopes France will benefit economically from the Iran nuclear deal.

"It's perfectly normal that France should reap financial benefist from this nuclear accord," he told RFI. "France should not be left behind when other world countries are rushing to Teheran to clinch economic opportunities."

Experts say the comprehensive nuclear deal and lifting of sanctions would result in a hike in Iran’s trade with the world and boost foreign investment in the country.

Hoping to clinch some of these opportunities, are companies like Peugeot and Renault, no doubt eager to recover their 10% market share, which has now fallen to just 1% post-sanctions.

The French employers’ federation, MEDEF, is due to visit Iran in September to try to kickstart ties.

Two months later, it will be President Hassan Rouhani who will make the opposite journey to Paris, if he accepts François Hollande's invitation. And there is no reason why he shouldn't. Unless of course Rouhani dislikes attempts by France and other world powers to badger him into taking a stance on conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

Conscious of this, Fabius added "it’s no secret that we have differences on a number of points, but there is will on both sides to take our relations in a new direction.”

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