France and Britain urged on Tuesday Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to meet with US President Donald Trump before concluding his trip to New York where he was attending the United Nations General Assembly.
“What is important is that if he leaves the country without meeting with President Trump, this is a lost opportunity. Because he will not come back in a few months. And President Trump will not go to Tehran so they have to meet now,” Macron said during a meeting with Rouhani and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Johnson concurred, according to the report, saying: “I think I agree with Emmanuel. You need to be on the side of the swimming pool and jump at the same time.”
The United States last year abandoned Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers and has since raised economic pressure on Tehran in an effort to force it to further curb its nuclear program as well as restrain its missile program and regional activities.
Iran has ruled out bilateral talks with the United States unless it returns to the terms of the 2015 deal, meaning that Washington would have to ease its economic sanctions on Tehran. Trump on Tuesday said the pressure would only intensify.
Earlier, Macron said he believed that the conditions for Trump and Rouhani to meet were now in place, but the ball was now in their court to make it happen.
“I believe that the conditions in this context for a rapid return to negotiations have been created,” Macron told reporters before heading back to Paris from New York.
“It’s now up to the Iranians and the United States to seize these conditions and work together to relaunch momentum.”
The French leader has been pushing to defuse tensions between Washington and Tehran over the last few weeks, especially after an attack on Saudi oil facilities on September 14. that the United States, Europe and Saudi Arabia have blamed on Iran.
Macron used two days of shuffle diplomacy at the United Nations to try to bring Trump and Rouhani face-to-face or at the very least get them to engage, fearing that a new incident could inflame the region.
But, with Rouhani demanding the United States lift tough sanctions that have strangled its economy and Washington refusing to do so until Iran comes to the table without conditions, the chances of a breakthrough still appear slim, even if the two leaders are still in New York on Wednesday.
“There is a common desire to progress and to not just find the terms of a de-escalation, but build a long-term accord,” Macron said. “But it depends on the will of both sides.”
Macron said the parameters of the talks were to ensure Iran can never acquire a nuclear weapon, end Yemen’s civil war, develop a plan for regional security that includes other crises in the region, ensure maritime flows in the Strait of Hormuz and lift economic sanctions.
But while Macron said those were the conditions, there appeared little to suggest that either side had agreed to take the next step.
“I think that lifting of sanctions on the part of the Americans without any visibility on the other subjects is not possible,” Macron said.
“At the same time, clear commitments from Iran on the points I mentioned are not possible without American commitments.”
When asked whether he thought they could still meet this week, Macron urged the two leaders to not miss the chance.
“I don’t think in the coming weeks and months there will be an opportunity for him (Rouhani) to come back to the US, and I don’t think President Trump will be going to Tehran,” he said.
“It’s a physical opportunity to seize because I think the best way to start a negotiation is to have a meeting, have a frank discussion between the two main protagonists,” Macron said.