France on Wednesday denied claims by Iran’s interior ministry that it had arrested French intelligence officials during protests in the country and demanded the release of all its citizens held in Iran.
Ties between France and Iran have soured in recent months as efforts to revive nuclear talks, to which France is a party, have stalled and Tehran has jailed seven of its citizens.
“France categorically denies the false statements of the Iranian interior minister about our compatriots who were recently arrested in this country and recalls that it considers all these detentions to be arbitrary,” the foreign ministry said in a statement sent to Reuters.
“As the (French foreign minister) indicated, we are aware of a total of seven French citizens who are now arbitrarily detained in Iran.”
Several French intelligence officers were arrested in connection with protests in Iran, its interior minister said on Wednesday, amid persistent anti-government demonstrations that have seen tensions with the West rise.
France lashed out at Iran on October 6, accusing it of “dictatorial practices” and taking its citizens hostage after a video aired in which a French couple appeared to admit to espionage. Iran has linked weeks of unrest to foreign enemies.
“France condemns in the strongest terms the treatment of our countrymen by the Iranian regime. We hold the Iranian authorities responsible for the fate and treatment of all French citizens who are arbitrarily detained in Iran at this time,” it said.
Earlier on Wednesday, speaking to reporters at the Group of 20 (G20) summit, President Emmanuel Macron accused Iran of being increasingly aggressive towards France.