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French president hopes for Iran, US presidents to meet in few weeks

France's President Emmanuel Macron (R) and US President Donald Trump give a joint press conference in Biarritz, southwest France, on August 26, 2019, on the third and final day of the annual G7 summit. (Photo by AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron says he hopes a long-anticipated meeting between the presidents of Iran and the United States would take place "in the next few weeks."

Macron made the remarks in a joint press conference with his US counterpart, Donald Trump, at the conclusion of the world’s seven top economic powers, known as G7, in the French resort city of Biarritz on Monday.

“I hope [the meeting between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Trump] could take place in the next few weeks,” the French president said, adding, "Nothing is for sure, things are eminently fragile."

He also added that during a phone conversation with his Iranian counterpart, Rouhani had told him that he is open to talks with Trump.

Macron said that "if he [Rouhani] agreed to meet with President Trump," he was "convinced that an agreement can be reached."

The French president added that he was going to call Rouhani once again in coming hours and discuss the issue with him.

"We have created the conditions for this meeting, and so for an agreement. I am still very cautious, you have to show humility, but I think it's something which puts a stop to the escalation and which will allow us to reach the objectives which we are pursuing."

The French president emphasized that he has told Rouhani and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif over the phone that if the Iranian president "accepted to meet President Trump, I'm convinced that an agreement can be found. We know the terms, the objectives, now we need to get round the table and manage it."

Macron’s remarks came on the same day that Rouhani said in an address to a ceremony that he would be ready to talk to anybody, if it helped solve the country’s economic problems.

“If I know that by taking part in a meeting with a specific person my country’s problem would be solved, I would not shy away from it, because the main issue [for me] is the country’s national interests,” the Iranian president said.

Noting that “we are currently in difficult conditions,” Rouhani said, “Since a year ago, the toughest sanctions have been imposed against the people [of Iran]. While we resist in the face of these sanctions, take retaliatory measures [and] reduce our commitments [under the nuclear deal], we also leave the door open to negotiation and diplomacy and by considering a two-month interval between each bout of reducing our commitments, we also clear the path for solving problems through diplomacy.”

Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China – plus Germany signed the nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on July 14, 2015 and started implementing it on January 16, 2016.

Under the JCPOA, Iran undertook to put limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of nuclear-related sanctions.

However, US President Trump pulled his country out of the international nuclear deal in May last year and stepped up sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Since that time various Iranian officials, including the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, have said time and again that the country would never again sit at the negotiating table with the United States unless Washington returns to fulfilling its commitments under the JCPOA and lift unjust sanctions it has imposed on the Islamic Republic.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will absolutely not sit for talks with America … because first, it bears no fruit and second, it is harmful,” the Leader said in a meeting with a number of university professors, elites and researchers in Tehran in late May.

The Leader referred to negotiation as a tactic used by Americans to complement their strategy of pressure. “This is actually not negotiation; it’s rather a means for picking the fruits of pressure.”

Earlier this month, President Rouhani said the US sanctions against the Iranian people amount to crime against humanity, stressing that Washington needs to lift all its bans if it really seeks negotiations with Tehran.

“If the United States wants to negotiate, it must lift the sanctions in their entirety before anything” so that it will not be accounted as a violator of human rights, Rouhani said. “We can’t talk to a criminal.”

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Since the US withdrawal from the JCPOA, Iran has been suspending some of its commitments under the nuclear deal. Tehran has rowed back on its nuclear commitments twice in compliance with articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA.

The spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Behrouz Kamalvandi, said earlier this month that the country would take the third step in scaling back its commitments under the JCPOA "in a matter of a month" if European signatories to the agreement continue to renege on their obligations.

"If the opposite side fails to live up to its commitments in the remaining one month [set as a deadline], the third phase of reducing JCPOA obligations will start as per what the president has previously declared in his capacity as head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council," Kamalvandi said.

During the Monday press conference in Biarritz, Trump also said for his part that he is ready to meet with his Iranian counterpart in the next few weeks.

"If the circumstances were correct, I would certainly agree to that," Trump said.

US President Donald Trump gestures during a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron (not shown) in Biarritz, southwest France on August 26, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Asked by reporters if he thought the timeline proposed by his French counterpart sounded realistic, Trump replied: "It does," adding he thought Rouhani would also be in favor.

In a joint press conference with Finland's Foreign Affairs Minister Pekka Haavisto in Helsinki on August 19, the Iranian foreign minister said the Islamic Republic has no interest in engaging in a fresh round of nuclear talks with the United States.

“Iran is not interested in negotiations with the United States to clinch a new nuclear accord,” Iran's top diplomat said, adding, “We had detailed negotiations with the United States and it was not us who left the negotiating table.”

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Back in July, Zarif took part in an exclusive interview with Bloomberg TV, rejecting the possibility of a new deal with the US that includes Iran's missile program.

"You don't buy a horse twice," Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an exclusive interview with Bloomberg TV in New York released Wednesday, when asked about the possibility of fresh talks with the US over a new comprehensive deal that includes Iran's nuclear energy and missile programs.

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