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French president: Difficult to reach nuclear deal if Gulf, Israel not involved

Macron says talks with Iran should have ‘broader dynamic’ and involve regional powers whose security is directly affected by any accord

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) meets with French President Emanuel Macron in Paris, on November 30, 2021. (MFA / Quentin Crestinu)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) meets with French President Emanuel Macron in Paris, on November 30, 2021. (MFA / Quentin Crestinu)

In striking comments Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron suggested Israel should be part of discussions on a return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

Speaking to reporters as talks were halted in Vienna, Macron said a broader framework might benefit the talks on bringing Washington back into the deal.

“I think everyone is conscious of the fact that not talking, not trying to find a new framework on both nuclear and regional issues, weakens everybody and is a factor in increasing confliction,” the French president said.

“It is also important to reengage a slightly broader dynamic and involve regional powers as well,” he added. “It is difficult to reach an agreement if the Gulf states, Israel and all those whose security is directly affected are not involved.”

Negotiations in Vienna aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal were suspended Friday as European diplomats expressed “disappointment and concern” at the latest proposals from Iran.

“Tehran is walking back almost all of the difficult compromises crafted after many months of hard work,” senior diplomats said, adding that the Iranian delegation had demanded “major changes.” They went on to say it was “unclear how these new gaps can be closed in a realistic timeframe.”

The Coburg Palais, the venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) revival talks, in Vienna on November 29, 2021. (VLADIMIR SIMICEK / AFP)

And US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tehran did not seem to be serious about reaching an agreement.

The secretary of state said the US would now consult with its allies, including Israel, on how best to move forward. “And we will see if Iran has any interest in engaging seriously, but the window is very, very tight.”

France’s President Emmanuel Macron listens to his Lithuanian counterpart as they make a statement prior to their working lunch at the Elysee palace in Paris, on November 30, 2021 (Thomas COEX / AFP)

Macron had met days ago with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who emphasized Israel’s position that sanctions must not be removed from Iran, and that only a credible military threat will stop Tehran’s nuclear program.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the two spoke at length about the nuclear talks in Vienna.

Lapid told Macron that Israel believes Iran is merely buying time at the talks in order to continue making progress in its nuclear program, and to gain relief from crippling economic sanctions. Israel’s top diplomat also emphasized the need to develop an effective Plan B if talks fail.

Diplomats in Vienna are aiming to revive the 2015 deal, which began unraveling in 2018 when then-US president Donald Trump pulled out of the deal and reimposed sanctions, prompting Iran to start exceeding limits on its nuclear program the following year.

Iran said on Thursday it had submitted two draft proposals for the nuclear agreement.

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri, arrives at the Coburg Palais in Vienna for nuclear talks, on November 29, 2021. (Vladimir Simicek/AFP)

Iran’s lead negotiator Ali Bagheri said the proposals concerned two main issues facing the 2015 accord known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

“The first document sums up the Islamic republic’s point of view concerning the lifting of sanctions, while the second is about Iran’s nuclear actions,” Bagheri told state television.

“Now the other side must examine these documents and prepare itself to hold negotiations with Iran based on these documents.”

A diplomat told Israel’s Walla news that the draft on sanctions relief was extreme and maximalist, with the Iranians, under the new government of Ebrahim Raisi, increasing their sanctions relief demands in comparison to agreements reached with the Rouhani government last June.

The diplomat also told Walla that Iran had backtracked on the nuclear draft too, removing all the previously agreed compromise language on steps to roll back its nuclear program.

“The Iranians have been told their proposals are not serious and they are to go back to Tehran and get further instructions,” the diplomat said.

Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency said the talks would “most likely” resume on Monday. But Macron warned there could be a longer break in the discussions, which only resumed on November 29 after a five-month break.

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