Trump dampens Macron optimism on Iran talks

Clay Curtis
August 25, 2019

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.

Zarif insisted that Iran did not want war with the U.S. but warned that a ramped-up Western naval presence in the Gulf increased the risk of accidents, which analysts say could start a wider confrontation.

Trump said that at times they "go at each other a little bit" but had a "special relationship". However, the United States pulled Washington out of the deal past year and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran, which had been lifted under the accord.

Tehran has responded with a series of moves, including retreating from some of its commitments to limit its nuclear activity made under the deal.

"It's important to keep the E3 together on Iran", said the French official, while the British diplomatic source said the United Kingdom felt the 2015 agreement signed with Iran remained the best way to ensure Tehran did not get nuclear weapons.

Recent months have seen several murky incidents involving tankers in the Gulf, as well as the British authorities temporarily impounding an Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar and Iran impounding a British-flagged tanker and a Panama-flagged one.

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G7 leaders agreed that President Emmanuel Macron should hold talks and pass on messages to Iran after they discussed the issue at a summit in southwestern France on Saturday evening, a French presidential source said.

The situation in Iran is high on the agenda of the G7 summit. Russia, along with Britain, Germany and China, remains a part of the accord.

"We are searching for ways Europe can in fact implement its commitments so that we can reverse the steps we have taken", he said. "Everybody's getting along. I think we will accomplish a lot this weekend", he said. "Contrast this to what is happening in Europe, where growth is effectively flat", one U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

France, Germany and Britain have set up a mechanism called INSTEX that aims to facilitate continued trade with Iran despite the USA sanctions, but it has yet to provide significant benefits.

They are also looking to see if there is any change of course from Britain, notably on Iran.

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