Biden speaks with Macron, agrees to coordinate on Iran nuclear deal

Two leaders also in agreement on climate change and how to fight coronavirus; US president has indicated willingness to rejoin atomic deal, while Israel urges significant changes

Illustrative: French President Emmanuel Macron speaks on the telephone to US President-elect Joe Biden, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020. (Ian Langsdon, Pool via AP)
Illustrative: French President Emmanuel Macron speaks on the telephone to US President-elect Joe Biden, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020. (Ian Langsdon, Pool via AP)

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron and new US President Joe Biden agreed Sunday to coordinate on Middle East Peace issues and the Iran nuclear deal, the Elysee palace said.

The two leaders spoke for the first time since Biden’s inauguration in a telephone call Sunday, discussing “their willingness to act together for peace in the Near and Middle East, in particular on the Iranian nuclear issue,” the French presidency said.

The two are also in agreement on climate change and how to fight coronavirus, the statement said.

The pair spoke for about an hour in English, according to members of Macron’s team.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy in the State Dining Room of the White House, January 22, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Biden has indicated his desire to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the deal is known, while Israel has been pushing for any return to the agreement to include fresh limitations on Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for terror and destabilization around the world.

Despite guarded optimism from both sides, there has been no sign of any movement toward common ground on the JCPOA during Biden’s first week in office.

Meanwhile, on Saturday night, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat, and promised to consult closely on regional security, Walla reported.

“I will offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy,” promised Biden as a candidate back in September. “If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations.”

The JCPOA was signed by Iran and six world powers known as the P5+1 (including France) in 2015. Then-president Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of the deal in 2018, opting instead for a “maximum pressure” sanctions effort.

France has remained committed to the deal.

Since 2019, Tehran has suspended its compliance with most of the limits set by the agreement in response to Washington’s abandonment of sanctions relief and the failure of other parties to the deal to make up for it.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a news conference with Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza at the Foreign Ministry in Caracas, Venezuela, Nov. 5, 2020 (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

Ahead of expected efforts to reconstitute Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, the Islamic Republic’s foreign minister has warned that his country would not accept changes to the terms of the 2015 pact.

Writing in Foreign Affairs on Friday, Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Iran’s “return to the table will be jeopardized if Washington or its EU allies demand new terms for a deal that was already carefully constructed through years of negotiations.”

Paris climate accords and COVID

Earlier this week, Macron had lauded Biden’s decision to return to the Paris climate accord.

Former US President Donald Trump formally pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord in November last year, claiming it “was designed to kill the American economy” rather than save the environment.

Describing France as America’s “oldest ally,” a White House statement added that Biden had pledged close coordination with Paris on climate change, Covid-19 and the global economy.

It said Biden “stressed his commitment to bolstering the transatlantic relationship, including through NATO and the United States’ partnership with the European Union.”

The call was the US leader’s latest effort to mend relations with Europe after they were badly strained under his predecessor Trump.

The White House said Biden and Macron also discussed cooperation on China, the Middle East, Russia and the Sahel.

Macron had initially attempted to forge a close relationship with Trump, but the two later were frequently at odds over Syria, US tariffs and Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord — which Biden moved to re-enter on his first day in office.

In this photo taken on April 24, 2018 US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron hold a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC.(AFP PHOTO / Ludovic MARIN)

Biden spoke on Saturday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and the two vowed to deepen cooperation and work together to tackle climate change, the prime minister’s office said.

That call was Biden’s first to a European leader, according to British newspapers.

His first call to any foreign leader went to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada on Friday, followed by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico.

Biden has vowed to return to a more traditional US diplomacy built around close ties to the two North American partners, Western Europe and Asian allies such as Japan and South Korea.

Europeans have responded with expressions of relief, tempered by some doubts that the US is as reliable a friend as it was in the past.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Council, said after Biden’s inauguration Wednesday that that quadrennial ceremony had provided “resounding proof that, once again, after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House.”

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