The Iranian government rejected France’s call for talks over Tehran’s ballistic missile program. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian’s concerns about Iran’s missile program were “unwarranted” and added that his country would not hold talks over “nonnegotiable issues”, particularly after the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and reinstated sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

The Iranian reaction came after the French top diplomat emphasized that Tehran “cannot avoid” negotiations over its controversial ballistic missile program and regional policies. He pointed out that France and other European countries remain committed to the Iran nuclear deal despite the U.S. withdrawal and called on Iran to “respect the fundamentals” of the Joint Comphrensive Plan of action, the deal Iran signed with world powers in 2015. The French foreign minister added: “But Iran cannot avoid discussions, negotiations on three other major subjects that worry us — the future of Iran’s nuclear commitments after 2025, the ballistic question and the fact there is a sort of ballistic proliferation on the part of Iran… and the role Iran plays to stabilize the whole region.”

Comment: The French diplomat’s remarks yet again show that while European powers opposed the Trump Administration’s unilateral exit from the Iran nuclear deal and are working with Russia and China to salvage the deal, they share Washington’s concerns about Iran’s missile activities and destabilizing role in the region. France, Germany and Britain – three signatories of the nuclear pact – want Iran to work with them on supplemental agreements that would address Iran’s missile program, regional posture, and nuclear activities after the expiration of agreement’s so-called sunset provisions. But Iran is adamant that it will not negotiate over those issues.

While Qassemi today asserted that Iran’s missile program is peaceful and does not pose a threat to regional countries, his statement ring hollow when the Revolutionary Guards proliferates its missile technology to regional militant organizations and threaten to attack Israel. Quoting Iranian and Iraqi officials, Reuters reported yesterday that the IRGC has provided ballistic missile to Shiite proxies in Iraq and “is developing the capacity to build more there to deter attacks on its interests in the Middle East and to give it the means to hit regional foes.”