PARIS (Reuters) - France’s President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday he would meet Iranian officials ahead of this weekend’s G7 summit and make proposals aimed at de-escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran.
European leaders have struggled to tamp down the brewing confrontation since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled his country out of Iran’s internationally-brokered 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on the Iranian economy.
Tehran has responded with a series of moves, including retreating from some of its commitments to limit its nuclear activity made under the deal. With the accord on the brink of collapse, Macron said he wanted the summit to yield a clearer strategy on how to avoid a further deterioration in the region.
“In the coming hours before the G7 I will have meetings with the Iranians and propose ideas,” Macron told reporters.
Leaders from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and the EU will attend the Group of Seven meeting in the southwestern French resort of Biarritz.
With punishing U.S. sanctions squeezing its economy, Iran is demanding that European powers that are party to the nuclear accord - France, Britain and Germany - do more to protect the financial gains Tehran stood to make under the accord.
“We have made proposals either for a softening of sanctions or a compensation mechanism to enable the Iranian people to live better,” Macron said, without giving more details.
The United States has made no indication it will ease any sanctions and it was unclear what kind of compensation mechanism Macron was referring to.
Macron said that in return he would expect Iran to comply fully with the nuclear deal and for Iran to engage in new negotiations that would include its ballistic missile programme and regional activities.
“We shall see what the response from the Iranians is in the hours ahead,” Macron said. “And we shall see how the Americans are ready to move forward.”
Trump’s argument for pulling Washington out of the nuclear accord last year was that it did not go far enough to rein in Iran.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said earlier this week he would meet Macron and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Paris on Friday. Two French diplomats said a joint meeting was likely, but that it had not been made public due to the sensitivity of the Iran issue.
European powers have tried to set up a trade channel to enable humanitarian and medical commerce with Iran, but it is still not operational and will not compensate for the billions of dollars of oil revenue Iran will lose due to the latest sanctions.
Reporting by Michel Rose and Marine Pennetier; Writing by John Irish; Editing by Richard Lough and Frances Kerry