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Macron, Rohani exchange demands on nuclear deal, regional conflicts

French President Emmanuel Macron (
September 02, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

French President Emmanuel Macron has urged Iranian President Hassan Rohani to show restraint amid rising tensions in the region, while the Iranian leader called on Europe to take measures to keep the 2015 nuclear deal alive.

Macron’s office on August 31 said the French leader in a phone call asked Iran to “take necessary measures” to encourage negotiations in Yemen’s war and called on Iran to show “the greatest restraint in Lebanon so that nothing compromises stability in this moment of great tension.”

Shi’ite Muslim Iran has been embroiled in what many have called a proxy war with Sunni-led Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

The Yemeni government, supported by Saudi Arabia and its military allies, has been battling the Iran-backed Huthi rebels since 2015.

Some 10,000 people have been killed and 14 million Yemenis have been pushed to the brink of famine.

Meanwhile, a tense standoff exists between Israel and Iran around Lebanon, raising fears of an armed conflict between the bitter rivals.

Macron’s office also said the president pushed again for Iran to adhere to its nuclear agreement.

The United States pulled out of the landmark 2015 deal in May 2018 and began reimposing crippling sanctions on Tehran.

The Iranian leadership say they remain committed to the accord but demand that Washington’s European allies — Britain, France, and Germany — take measures to mitigate the damage done by U.S. sanctions.

Tehran has begun exceeding limits placed as part of the accord, putting the agreement in danger of collapsing.

In the call, Rohani warned Macron that Iran would take the next step in reducing its commitments under the accord unless Europe honors its obligations.

“If Europe cannot operationalize its commitments, Iran will take its third step to reduce its JCPOA commitments,” Rohani said, using the acronym for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

He added, though, that the nuclear commitments that Iran might take are “reversible” should conditions improve.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said last week in an interview with the German Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that the step would be taken on September 6.

Rohani’s chief of staff Mahmoud Vaezi said the third step would be taken “in the event Iran’s demands are not met.”

“A committee decides the third step and we will decide…two or three days prior to the deadline,” Vaezi was quoted as saying by the semiofficial ISNA news agency on September 1.

Vaezi said Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi would head an Iranian economic delegation travelling to France on September 2 to discuss proposals aimed at salvaging the 2015 nuclear accord.