Trump: France, Japan free to talk with Iran
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday that G7 leaders meeting in the French seaside resort of Biarritz had agreed joint action on Iran with the aim of defusing tensions and opening new negotiations with Tehran.
“We agreed on what we wanted to say jointly on Iran,” Macron told LCI television.
“We have to continue to take initiatives and in the coming weeks that on the one hand there are no more Iranian decisions that contradict this objective and that we open new negotiations,” Macron said without giving details.
“There is a message from the G7 on our objectives and the fact that we share them is important, which avoids divisions that in the end weaken everybody,” he said.
“Everyone wants to avoid a conflict, Donald Trump was extremely clear on that point.”
Macron, who has pushed mediation efforts in recent weeks to avoid a further deterioration in the Middle East, noted that he had not been given a formal mandate from G7 leaders to pass messages to Iran, but that he would continue to hold talks with Tehran.
Highlighting just how difficult agreeing on concrete measures between allies is, Macron said the leaders’ views had converged on not wanting Iran to acquire nukes, which Iran has always denied to have sought, and ensuring peace and security in the Middle East.
“We had a discussion yesterday on Iran and that enabled us to establish two common lines: no member of the G7 wants Iran to get a nuclear bomb and all the members of the G7 are deeply attached to stability and peace in the region,” Macron said, adding that both he and Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo had taken initiatives on Iran.
“But there is no formal G7 mandate that is given so there are initiatives that will continue to be taken to reach these two objectives,” he said.
European leaders have struggled to tamp down the brewing confrontation between Iran and the United States since US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of Iran’s internationally-brokered 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on the Iranian economy.
Trump, who has pushed a maximum pressure policy on Iran, appeared to brush aside French efforts to mediate with Iran on Sunday, saying that while he was happy for Macron to reach out to Tehran to defuse tensions he would carry on with his own initiatives.
Asked if he had signed off on a statement that Macron intends to give on behalf of the G7 on Iran, Trump said:
“I haven’t discussed this. No I haven’t,” he told reporters, adding that Macron and Abe were free to talk to Iran.
Trump said during a bilateral meeting with Abe that he’s not stopping any leader from talking with Iran, noting Abe’s recent outreach.
“We’ll do our own outreach, but, you know, I can’t stop people from talking. If they want to talk, they can talk.”
Macron, who has taken the lead to defuse tensions fearing that a collapse of the nuclear deal could set ablaze the Middle East, met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday. The aim was to discuss proposals that could ease the crisis, including the idea of reducing some US sanctions or providing Iran with an economic compensation mechanism.
He was supposed to discuss those ideas with Trump on the sidelines of the G7, which also comprises Britain, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and the EU.
In response to the tougher US sanctions and what it says is the inability of European powers party to the deal – France, Britain and Germany – to compensate it for its lost oil revenue, Tehran has responded with a series of moves, including retreating from some of its commitments to limit its nuclear activity made under the deal.
The United States has made no indication it will ease any sanctions and it is unclear what kind of compensation mechanism Macron wants to offer Iran given at this stage a proposed trade channel for humanitarian and food exchanges with Iran is still not operational.
Macron has also said that in return for any concessions he would expect Iran to comply fully with the nuclear deal and for Iran to engage in new negotiations that would include its ballistic missile program and regional activities.
Reuters and AP contributed to this story.