Sciences Po pays tribute to François Nicoullaud, alumnus of the class of 1961 and former professor at the Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA), who passed away on 20 March 2021. A seasoned diplomat, he was head of French cooperation, directed the cabinet of the Minister of Defence Pierre Joxe, and acted as French ambassador in Budapest, from 1993 to 1997, and in Tehran.
His career as a diplomat began in 1964 within the central administration. He then joined the École Nationale de l’Administration (ENA) from which he graduated in 1973. He was appointed second secretary of the Embassy in Santiago de Chile in 1974, before becoming chief of staff of the French military general in Berlin from 1975 to 1978. He obtained his first post as consul in Mumbai in 1986, then became French ambassador in Budapest in 1993, a position he left in 1997.
Appointed ambassador to Tehran from 2001 to 2005, he was at the heart of the storm between the West and Iran, notably during the post-9/11 crisis. He left his post in Iran following the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, without losing sight of the Iranian nuclear issue, of which he became one of the most eminent specialists. A man of peace, he continued to take constant positions in its favour until 2015 and the negotiations of the Iranian nuclear deal. In his book, Le turban et la rose : Journal inattendu d'un ambassadeur à Téhéran : à la découverte d'un autre Iran, published by Ramsay in 2006, he offers a humble and intelligent reading of this complex society, the scene of his last struggle.
PSIA students were lucky enough to have him as a teacher between 2014 and 2018, during which time he led workshops simulating negotiations on the Iranian nuclear issue, as close as possible to reality in the field. A meticulous professor, he was available to his students and "will be remembered as one of the great experts in international relations who was able to pass on technical and complex knowledge within academic rules" to future generations of diplomats, said Jean-Pierre Filiu, University Professor and researcher at Sciences Po’s Centre for International Studies (CERI).