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Badi Soch: France’s bid for relevance

The second Geneva round of the P5+1 talks with Iran that begins on November 20 comes with high hopes for a breakthrough deal.  The U.S. and Iran have acknowledged the need for an agreement to end economic sanctions on Iran, in exchange for guarantees that Iran will not pursue a nuclear weapons program.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have already expressed apprehensions about such an agreement, and their firm economic and diplomatic ally France is playing along by declaring as part of the P5, it will not sign the agreement during the first round of talks that were held November 7-8. But President François Hollande won’t have it so easy. His administration has a low 22% public approval rating and a restless public devoid of faith in it.

In this context, the Iran talks are an opportunity for Hollande to regain public approval and to reaffirm France’s relevance in the Eurozone. Experts warn that France’s sputtering economy — the second-largest in the EU, with a GDP growth rate of 0.20% — could be the epicentre of the next Euro collapse.

Desperate to move past the European discourse, Paris is using the P5 position on Iran to prove it is a heavyweight. In fact, it is the opposite: by kowtowing to Saudi Arabia and Israel’s demands, France could appear weaker – and find itself on the wrong side of history in on what can be a momentous agreement with Iran.

Compiled by Hal Bergold, Aashna Jamal and Dev Lewis

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