US President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani agreed to a four-point plan drafted by French President Emmanuel Macron that would have seen the two leaders meet and declare a resumption of negotiations, according to a Tuesday report in Politico.
However, the diplomatic effort by the French president failed when Rouhani backed out, over what other reports characterized as his deep mistrust of the US administration.
French officials told the website that Macron convinced Trump and Rouhani to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last week under the framework of his document. This called for the US to roll back all re-imposed sanctions, while Tehran was obligated to adhere to the nuclear agreement, refrain from “any aggression” in the region and agree to resume long-term talks about its nuclear programs.
Politico said the meeting did not go ahead because Rouhani insisted that Trump first publicly declare an end to the sanctions he re-imposed after withdrawing the US last year from the 2015 nuclear deal.
Rouhani “agreed on the principles of the document and he thanked the [French] president because there is the explicit mention of the sanctions [but] he wanted Trump to say before entering the meeting that he was lifting the sanctions,” an unnamed French official told Politico.
Tuesday’s report followed a New Yorker report on Sunday that Macron was close to brokering a phone call between Trump and Rouhani last week, but the French president’s secretive effort fell apart because of the Iranian leader’s lack of trust in the US president.
Trump was waiting on the line, but Rouhani left him hanging, The New York Times elaborated Monday. “President Trump waited on the other end.” All Rouhani had to do “was come out of his hotel suite and walk into a secure room where Mr. Trump’s voice would be piped in via speaker. But he refused to do so, and therefore “Mr. Macron left empty-handed and Mr. Trump was left hanging.”
Officials said Macron had arranged for technicians to install a secure line in Rouhani’s New York hotel suite for a three-way conference call Tuesday evening, but when the French president arrived at the suite and proposed the call, Rouhani refused to participate.
The Times said Rouhani and his aides were “blindsided by the offer” to talk to Trump, which was presented to them by Macron during on an unannounced visit to their rooms at the Millennium Hilton Hotel. “It was a mission lifted out of a Hollywood thriller,” the paper said.
“We set up the gear with the approval of the Iranians, evidently, because it was happening at their quarters,” a French official told the New Yorker. “The technicians arrived, the Iranians let them set up, they assisted them, there was no problem.”
Tensions have risen in the Persian Gulf since May last year when Trump unilaterally abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Iran and began reimposing crippling sanctions in a campaign of “maximum pressure.”
Britain, France and Germany have repeatedly said they are committed to saving the deal that gave Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, but their efforts have so far borne little fruit.
Tensions flared again this May when Iran began reducing its own commitments under the deal and the US deployed military assets to the region.
Since then, ships have been attacked, drones downed and oil tankers seized. This month, twin attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure, which knocked out half the kingdom’s production, drew accusations of blame on Iran from Washington and Europe.
Tehran has denied any involvement in the attacks which were claimed by Iran-backed rebels fighting a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
On Sunday, the Iranian oil minister ordered his country’s energy sector to be on high alert to the threat of “physical and cyber” attacks, saying precautions were needed due to American sanctions and the “full-scale economic war” that the Islamic Republic accuses the United States of waging against it.