French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius arrived Tehran on Wednesday and said it was time improve the frosty relations between France and Iran after a nuclear deal was recently drawn up with the country, thus making such a development possible.
Fabius met with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani before delivering a letter from French President Francois Hollande and inviting the Iranian leader to visit France.
Rouhani will be the first Iranian president to visit France in 16 years and Fabius was the first French foreign minister to visit Iran in 12 years.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that the meeting with Fabius had gone well. "We began good discussions to reach regional cooperation in the fight against terrorism and extremism," he said during a televised news conference.
The historic July 14 accord between Iran and six world powers over the country’s nuclear programme paved the way for Fabius’ visit, which he called "an important trip."
Fabius represented France during the long negotiations to reach the nuclear deal and gained a reputation for having a harsh stance on the conditions Iran must meet under the deal. Fabius was dubbed "the obstacle" in Iranian media during the talks.
"We are two great, independent countries, two great civilizations. It is true that in recent years, for reasons that everyone knows, the ties have cooled but now thanks the nuclear deal, things will be able to change," Fabius said to reporters in the French embassy in Tehran.
Fabius hopes his trip to Tehran will reverse damaged ties with Iran "especially in the economic domain because there is a lot we can do together." He did not, however, dodge key disagreements.
"There are a number of points on which we have differences," Fabius said, referring to the conflicts of interest in several countries in the region such as in Syria and Yemen, as well as Iran's refusal to acknowledge Israel.
Conservative Iranian media outlets have highlighted Fabius’ involvement in a major health scandal dating from the 1980s when he was French prime minister.
At that time the French National Blood Transfusion Centre exported blood products contaminated with the AIDS virus, which led to the deaths of hundreds of Iranians.
People also died in France as a result of the same contaminated blood products. Fabius was acquitted in 1999 by French courts of involvement in the scandal.