Iran nuclear deal: As Rouhani talks to Macron, the US and Europe drift further apart

The French president wants to bring his Iranian counterpart to the negotiating table. Tehran rejects any changes to the existing deal, which remains "not negotiable", and refuses new restrictions. France, the United Kingdom and Germany back the JPCOA. US Secretary of State travels to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan to boost anti-Iranian front.

Teheran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The various parties with an interest in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) seem to be moving in opposite directions. Some are trying to save it; others are trying to change it, if not cancel it outright.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who recently met US president Donald Trump during a state visit to the United States, spoke on the phone with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani to try to convince him to resume negotiations. The latter said that the deal his country accepted was "not negotiable".

In a call lasting more than an hour, Macron said talks would have to cover "three additional, indispensable subjects": the need to discuss what would happens in 2025 when the current deal expires, Iran's involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts, and its ballistic missile programme. 

These were the main topics of the face-to-face discussions between Trump and Macron last week.

President Rouhani told Mr Macron that Iran "will not accept any restrictions” beyond the commitments already made.

The phone conversation between the presidents of France and Iran followed intense consultations over the weekend between Macron himself, British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. European leaders reiterated the importance of upholding the agreement.

In January, Trump waived re-imposing sanctions for another 120 days. However, stressing that it would be "the last time", the US leader signalled his intention of demanding major changes to what he calls the “disastrous flaws” in Barack Obama’s policies. A decision from the White House is expected by 12 May.

In the meantime, the various stakeholders are lining up on opposite sides. European nations (plus Russia and the United Nations) want to maintain the JCPOA; by contrast, the United States (with Israel and Saudi Arabia) want more sanctions against Iran, which they blame for the region’s instability and for sponsoring terrorism.

On his first overseas trip since taking office, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travelled to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan, the main US allies in the Middle East, and took shots at Iran.

Tehran "supports proxy militias and terrorist groups. It is an arms dealer to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. It supports the murderous Assad regime [in Syria] as well," he said at a news conference.

“We remain deeply concerned about Iran's dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region and Iran's ambition to dominate the Middle East,” Pompeo said after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In the Saudi capital, Pompeo had earlier reiterated Washington's full support for Riyadh in its war in Yemen, which has turned into a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. (DS)