Aug 26, 2019 - World

France's Macron wants to broker a meeting between the U.S. and Iran

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron revealed Monday that he is attempting to broker a meeting between the U.S. and Iran in the coming weeks during a joint press conference with President Trump to close the G7 summit.

Why it matters: Trump has long said that he is willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, but Iranian officials have rejected the idea on grounds that the U.S. is waging "economic warfare" against them. Macron said he told Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who made a surprise visit to the summit over the weekend, that if such a meeting went forward he believes "an agreement could be reached." He pointed to a statement today from Rouhani that he would be willing to meet with "an individual" if it was in Iran’s interest.

Between the lines: Macron was asked if he sought Trump's permission before inviting Zarif, whose arrival yesterday raised eyebrows around the world. Macron said the idea came after Saturday's dinner and added that he informed — but did not ask — Trump before inviting Zarif.

The big picture: Macron said that, despite their disagreements over Trump's decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, he and Trump shared objectives — to ensure Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon and to avoid escalatory incidents in the Gulf. He noted Trump's main priorities for a new accord are increased surveillance powers and a "much longer timetable."

"We need to convince the Iranians to go in that direction, and we can do that if we give them economic compensation of some form. If we make some movement in terms of lines of credit or reopening certain economic sectors."
— Macron

What to watch: Macron spoke with great optimism about French efforts to lay the groundwork for a deal, and he noted that there was also a "Japanese initiative" underway. “At a given point in time there will have to be a meeting between the American and the Iranian presidents," he said.

  • Trump said he's open to meeting Rouhani under the right circumstances, but "in the meantime, they have to be good players." He warned of "very violent force" if Iran does "what they were saying they were going to do" — an apparent reference to potential attacks on U.S. interests.
  • He said the U.S. does not seek regime change in Iran, adding: "This country has been through that many times before, that doesn’t work."
  • Trump also claimed Iran is "not the same country" it was 2.5 years ago, suggesting it's now less of a threat.

What they're saying:

  • Trump: "We’re looking for: no nuclear weapons, no ballistic missiles and a longer period of time. Very simple, we can have it done in a very short period of time."
  • Macron: "I want this meeting to happen, and I want there to be an agreement between the United States and Iran."

Other highlights:

  • Trump defended his suggestion that his own property in Doral, Florida, host next year’s summit, saying: “In my opinion, I’m not going to make any money.”
  • Trump praised U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, saying: "I have been waiting for him to become prime minister for about 6 years."
  • Trump said he was not currently considering auto tariffs on Japan but added, “it’s something I could do at a later date if I wanted to.”
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