Criticizing Le Drian for calling Tehran a “threat,” Zarif referred in a tweeted message to France’s arms sales to Saudi war criminals, stressing that France is “destabilizing” West Asia.
He urged his French counterpart to “Stop protecting criminals who chainsaw their critics and use YOUR arms to slaughter children in Yemen.”
Speaking to the Journal du Dimanche, Le Drian claimed that the campaign of "maximum pressure" against Tehran chosen by the administration of the outgoing US President Donald Trump did not succeed and "only increased the risk and the threat." He also added that Iran is “in the process of acquiring nuclear (weapons) capacity," Press TV reported.
In response to the US' unilateral withdrawal in 2018 from Iran’s nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments five times in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the nuclear deal, but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.
Addressing the French foreign minister, Zarif said, “Dear colleague: You kick-started your cabinet career with arms sales to Saudi war criminals. Avoid absurd nonsense about Iran.
“Reality check: YOU are destabilizing OUR region. Stop protecting criminals who chainsaw their critics and use YOUR arms to slaughter children in Yemen.”
By mentioning “criminals who chainsaw their critics,” Zarif made a reference to the gruesome killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Khashoggi, a former advocate of the Saudi royal court who later became a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed and then dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, after he entered the premises to collect documents for his planned wedding.
The Washington Post, for which Khashoggi was a columnist, reported in November 2018 that the CIA had concluded that bin Salman personally ordered his killing.
The Saudi crown prince accepted responsibility a year after the murder and said, “It happened under my watch.”
On the other hand, investigative website Disclose published leaked documents in 2019 that indicated Saudi Arabia was using French weapons, including tanks and laser-guided missile systems, against civilians in Yemen's war.
Faced with strong criticism, Macron admitted that the weapons were indeed being used in the war; but only within Saudi Arabia's border.
France, the third-biggest arms exporter in the world, is also among the top weapons exporters to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.