France has officially ceded nothing. The French Minister of Foreign Affairs affirms this Tuesday that there was “no counterpart” to the release of the French Benjamin Brière and the Franco-Irish Bernard Phelan who were prisoners in Iran.
“There was none”, declares Catherine Colonna, questioned on France 2. “I want to say it,” she added. “We pleaded a lot at different levels with the Iranian authorities given their state of health which was extremely degraded”, she also underlines.
Benjamin Brière, 37, and Bernard Phelan, 64, were released on May 12. “They were both sick. Fortunately, they came out of this ordeal”, insists Catherine Colonna, deploring that Benjamin Brière “spent three years in Iranian jails”. “This is not acceptable,” she added.
Anonymity of a French detainee at the request of his family
She recalled that the French authorities are now working on the “unconditional” release of the four other French people still detained in Iran. They are Cécile Kohler and Jacques Paris, arrested on May 7, 2022, “during a tourist stay” according to their relatives, and a 35-year-old consultant, Louis Arnaud, arrested on September 28 in Tehran, the capital, he also went to Iran as a tourist.
Another Frenchman is also detained, but his identity has never been made public. Asked about the reasons for her anonymity, Catherine Colonna stressed that it is “at the request of her family”. “We completely respect privacy,” she continued, uring that it is not a secret agent.
Finally, she indicated that France is struggling so that the Franco-Iranian researcher Fariba Adelkhah obtains papers and can finally be free to move. Arrested in 2019 and then sentenced to five years in prison for undermining national security, she was released on February 10 but cannot leave Iran.
“Bashar al-ad, the enemy of his people”
The head of French diplomacy also returned to the situation of Syrian President Bashar al-ad. Last week, he made a remarkable international release by being guest of the Arab League summita regional discussion forum.
However, France does not intend to change its policy. “We have to remember who Bashar al-ad is. He is a leader who has been the enemy of his people for more than ten years, ”says Catherine Colonna. “You have to remember that there were hundreds of thousands of deaths, the use of chemical weapons. »
🇸🇾🗣 “He is a leader who has been the enemy of his people for more than 10 years. As long as he does not change, there is no reason for him to become an interlocutor for France again”
Catherine Colonna on Bashar al-ad. #Les4V @MinColonna pic.twitter.com/dHskq30oFE
— Telematin (@telematin) May 23, 2023
The lifting of European sanctions targeting it is “certainly not” on the agenda. “As long as he does not change, as long as he does not make commitments to reconciliation, to the fight against terrorism, to the fight against , (…) that he does not respect his commitments, he will not there is no reason to change your attitude towards him. She adds “that it is up to him to change, it is not up to France to change its attitude”.