News / Middle East

Business Trip to Iran 'Not Helpful,' Kerry Tells France

FILE - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
FILE - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Reuters
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his French counterpart a trip to Iran by French executives was “not helpful” and that it gave the wrong impression that the West could do business with Tehran as usual, a U.S. official said.

Under an interim deal reached by Iran and six world powers in November, Tehran agreed to limit parts of its nuclear work in return for the easing of some international sanctions.

The deal called for negotiation of a full agreement within a year. The easing of sanctions, which began in late January, has prompted Western firms to race for business opportunities.

Iran welcomed more than 100 executives from France's biggest firms on Monday, the most senior French trade mission in years.

“Secretary Kerry has talked directly to Foreign Minister [Laurent] Fabius about the trade delegation... about how this is not helpful,” Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman told U.S. lawmakers in Washington on Tuesday.

“Tehran is not open for business because our sanctions relief is quite temporary, quite limited and quite targeted,” she said.

Sherman and U.S. Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen also sought to address concerns in the Congress that too many concessions had been made to Iran in the nuclear talks.

While the initial agreement was “not perfect,” it bought time to try to secure a comprehensive deal, U.S. officials said.

In Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif criticized comments made by Sherman at the hearing in Congress, without specifying which ones he was reacting to.

“Such talk isn't helpful and could adversely impact the [nuclear negotiations]. U.S. officials should stop such comments so that we can reach a solution,” state media quoted Zarif as saying at a joint news conference on Wednesday with the head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Iyad Madani.

Zarif, however, acknowledged that “some comments made by Americans are for domestic consumption”.

Private initiative

Asked about Kerry's conversation with Fabius, France's foreign ministry said the two men speak regularly and that the main French employers' association MEDEF had organized the trade delegation on its own initiative.

France, the euro zone's second largest economy, has for months vaunted an “economic diplomacy” drive to secure trade agreements abroad. However, MEDEF was behind the Iran trip.

“It was that organization's initiative, in an exploratory capacity and in compliance with France's international engagements,” the Foreign Ministry said in an online briefing.

The delegation on the Feb. 2-5 trip met Mohammad Nahavandian, President Hassan Rouhani's chief of staff, and members of Irans Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, state news agency IRNA said.

Among the companies represented were Safran, Airbus , Total, GDF-Suez, Renault, Alcatel, Alstom and L'Oreal, a source close to the delegation said.

Pierre Gattaz, the head of MEDEF, said the delegation had not violated the terms of the interim nuclear accord.

“We faultlessly respected the Geneva Convention of last November, we're familiar with this framework. There are other European country delegations who were in Iran,” he said.

Some U.S. Congress members have said it was unwise to ease sanctions before Iran did more to curb its nuclear activity.

The U.S. ambassador to Germany, John Emerson, told a business conference on Tuesday that Iran sanctions were working, “so the worst thing that could happen is that companies that would like to do business with Iran... jump to the front of the line before we are able to conclude reach this agreement”.

If Congress begins to see “a sieve or a hole in this process,” Emerson warned, “they'll jump right in there and that could blow the negotiations up.”

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More