September 23, 2019 / 10:08 AM / 24 days ago

Macron: Saudi attacks do not help chances of a Trump-Rouhani meeting

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron reacts as he inaugurates the Commission on the first 1000 days of the child in Paris, France September 19, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/Pool

PARIS (Reuters) - The Sept. 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities have not helped diplomatic efforts to organise talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, French President Emmanuel Macron told Le Monde newspaper.

France is trying to salvage Iran’s nuclear deal as Tehran scales back its commitments in response to a U.S. pullout from the accord. Paris has urged de-escalation in the Gulf.

Speaking to the paper while flying to the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Macron said caution was needed in apportioning blame for the attack, which shook global oil markets.

“One must be very careful in attributing responsibility. There are clusters of clues, but this bombardment is a new military event that changes the region’s ecosystem.”

He acknowledged that “the chances of talks between Trump and Rouhani “had certainly not increased” since the strike.

Trump, who ordered more sanctions and approved sending American troops to bolster Saudi defences, initially declared Washington was “locked and loaded” to respond to the attack, then said there were options short of war.

The French president described Trump as a lone and impulsive decision-maker, whereas Rouhani, he said, had to bring an entire political system on board.

“The Iranians are flexible on the terms but inflexible on the timing which, in their eyes, should come only at the end of the process, while the U.S. objective is to have this meeting in the near-term,” Macron told Le Monde.

Britain on Monday joined the United States and Saudi Arabia in pointing the finger at Iran for the Saudi attack.

Reporting by Sudip-Kar-Gupta; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Toby Chopra

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