Macron says G7 leaders have given him no formal mandate to pass messages to Iran following surprise Zarif visit

By bne IntelliNews August 25, 2019

French President Emmanuel Macron said on August 25 G7 leaders had not given him a formal mandate to pass messages to Iran, but that he would continue to hold talks with Tehran in coming weeks to defuse tensions.

Macron spoke after a day during which Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif flew in to pay a surprise visit to the G7 summit in Biarritz for talks on the sidelines. The White House, according to Reuters, said US President Donald Trump was surprised by the move, but France said it had told its G7 partners of the surpise visit as soon as it was possible.

“It was all organised at very short notice,” an Elysee official told Reuters. “It all happened within a small window. Other countries were informed as soon as possible. It all happened in a matter of hours.”

Asked why other countries weren’t told earlier of the surprise visit, the Elysee official said: “They were informed early enough.” The official added that the diplomatic situation was too sensitive.

Macron, who reportedly spent 30 minutes with Zarif, said: “We had a discussion yesterday on Iran and that enabled us to establish two common lines: no member of the G7 wants Iran to get a nuclear bomb and all the members of the G7 are deeply attached to stability and peace in the region.”

“But there is no formal G7 mandate that is given so there are initiatives that will continue to be taken to reach these two objectives.”

Zarif, who like vast swathes of his country’s economy and numerous Iranian individuals is under US sanctions as Washington attempts to strangle Iran’s economy to force the country to diminish its role in the Middle East, flew to the southwest French town of Biarritz and held more than three hours of side talks in all before heading back to Tehran.

“Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying,” Zarif tweeted, adding that in addition to meeting French leaders he had given a joint briefing to officials from Germany and Britain.

“We’ll do our own outreach, but, you know, I can’t stop people from talking. If they want to talk, they can talk,” Trump said earlier when asked about Macron’s mediation efforts.

Highlighting just how difficult it will be to ease tensions between Washington and Tehran, two Iranian officials and one diplomat told Reuters on August 25 that Iran wants to export a minimum of 700,000 barrels per day of its oil and ideally up to 1.5mn bd if the West wants to negotiate with Tehran to save the nuclear deal.

The US has a policy of using sanctions in an attempt at forcing Iranian oil exports to zero.

Some news reports on August 25 referred to a French plan to persuade the US to give Iran a temporary reprieve from the attempted oil blockade in return for Iran sticking tightly to the nuclear deal. There has been no indication out of the Trump administration that the US is interested in trying for such a way forward.

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