Aug 26, 2019

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.”

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,410,228 — Total deaths: 345,105 — Total recoveries — 2,169,005Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,643,499 — Total deaths: 97,722 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

The CDC is warning of potentially "aggressive rodent behavior" amid a rise in reports of rat activity in several areas, as the animals search further for food while Americans stay home more during the coronavirus pandemic.

By the numbers: More than 97,700 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 366,700 Americans have recovered and more than 14.1 million tests have been conducted.

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Japan's economy minister outlined plans on Monday to end the nationwide state of emergency as the number of new novel coronavirus cases continues to decline to fewer than 50 a day, per Bloomberg. Japan has reported 16,550 cases and 820 deaths.

By the numbers: Over 5.4 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.1 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 13.7 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,800 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.