G-7 Summit
By Rijksvoorlichtingsdienst - Flickr: G7 in het Catshuis, CC BY 2.0,

Iran’s foreign minister Jawad Zarif held negotiations with French President Emmanuel Macron. He held talks at sidelines of the G-7 summit. His visit to France is surprising for political analysts. Mr. Zarif arrived in Biarritz on Sunday. In Biarritz, G-7 leaders are gathered to discuss global issues. Leaders of Japan, the United States, Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany are attending the G-7 summit. Climate change, global trade, and Iran’s nuclear program are the key issues of the G-7 discussion. 

Reuters states that Mr. Zarif held a 3 hours long meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian. Mr. Zarif also spent half an hour with French President Macron. In a twitter post, Mr. Zarif claimed that Iran was working on active diplomacy for constructive engagement. He left France soon after the meetings. French officials say that the talks were positive. 

France is working hard to neutralize the tensions between Iran and the US. The tensions raised when the US unilaterally withdrew from an internationally brokered deal JCPOA. This deal offered to ease sanctions on Iran in return of curbs on Iran’s nuclear program. After the unilateral decision of withdrawal, the US reimposed sanctions on Iran’s oil trade and banks. Mr. Zarif did not meet with Trump at the G-7 summit. 

French President decided to invite Mr. Zarif after hosting a dinner of G-7 participants on Saturday night. A French official told AFP that the invite was sent in agreement with the US. However, the white house says that President Trump was not informed about the invite. Macron also met Zarif on Friday evening in Paris. 

France is trying to persuade the US to give relief to Iran. Other signatories of JCPOA opposed the US move of withdrawal from JCPOA. They are also trying to save Iran from US sanctions. Experts believe that softness in US behavior is necessary for having Iran back on the dialogue table. 

Trump administration wants to engage Iran for new talks including the ballistic missile program of Iran. Trump also wants Iran to stop supporting the regional armed militias like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Houthis. But Iran has refused to talk on these matters. After the US withdrawal,  Iran has also backtracked some of its promises made in the nuclear agreement. 

In July, USA imposed sanctions on Iran’s Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif. Trump administration believes that the moves were necessary amid Iran’s aggressive approach in the Strait of Hormuz. Experts believe that Zarif’s visit to the G-7 summit indicates that Iran wants to rescue the nuclear accord of 2015. Iranian administration is trying to save the deal to avoid criticism of those politicians who opposed the nuclear deal of 2015. Zarif’s unannounced visit also indicates the division between the US and France on Iran. 

French authorities claim that all G-7 participants were agreed on sending the invitation to Jawad Zarif. However, US President Trump openly refused the claim made by France. He maintained that the US is not taken into confidence over this move. He further says that if some people want to talk with Iran they can talk. But the USA will follow its own approach towards Iran. 

After the Macron-Zarif meeting, Macron backtracked from his statement. He said that G-7 participants did not mandate him to invite the Iranian Foreign Minister. He further claimed that all the participants were agreed on not allowing Iran to develop a nuclear weapon and maintaining the peace and security of the region. He further suggested that every participant of the G-7 summit will do its efforts to achieve these two objectives. 

Political and defense analysts believe that France has a vested interest in diffusing US-Iran tensions. Several French business giants including Total and Peugeot had to pull out of billion dollars deal with Iranian companies after US sanctions. These economic interests are forcing Macron to normalize the relations between Iran and the USA. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the Macron-Zarif meeting. She says that every available opportunity should be utilized to de-escalate the tensions. 

This was all about the G-7 summit and discussion on Iran’s nuclear program. It seems that the USA is alienated by other participants of the G-7 meeting. But tensions cannot be de-escalated without taking the USA into confidence. France cannot play an active role without US support. 

Related: US Eases Tensions with G-7

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