Macron on Iran nuclear deal: there is no 'Plan B'

  • 23 Apr 2018

US President Donald Trump is threatening to tear up the 2015 agreement aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear efforts. France's Emmanuel Macron will visit the US to persuade Trump from doing so.

Much was made of this handshake when France's President Emmanuel Macron met Donald Trump in May 2017, but the focus will now be on whether Macron, who meets Trump on Monday, can persuade the US president not to scrap the Iran nuclear deal. ( AFP )

French President Emmanuel Macron, who is heading to Washington to urge his US counterpart to stay in the Iran nuclear deal, said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that there is no "Plan B" if the accord is scrapped.

"I don't have any Plan B for nuclear – against Iran," Macron told Fox News Sunday, in an English-language interview broadcast on the eve of his three-day state visit.

"So that's a question we will discuss, but that's why I just want to say, on nuclear – let's present this framework because it's better than the sort of North Korean type of situation,"

North Korea has developed and tested nuclear weapons as well as intercontinental ballistic missiles, posing a significant threat to global security.

US President Donald Trump is threatening to tear up the 2015 agreement aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear efforts unless European capitals agree to supplement it with tougher controls on Iran's missile programme and future ability to return to nuclear fuel enrichment.

Upping the rhetoric

Iran is upping the rhetoric in return – with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warning on Saturday that Tehran is ready to "vigorously" resume enrichment if the US ditches the nuclear accord.

Macron said he too supports efforts to curb Iran's ballistic missile programme, but that this does not require scrapping the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear accord.

"I'm not satisfied with the situation with Iran. I want to fight against ballistic missiles, I want to contain their influence in the region," he said.

"My point is to say don't leave now the JCPOA as long as you have not a better option for nuclear, and let's complete it with ballistic missile and regional containment."

Macron's comments came as foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialised nations met in Toronto on Sunday seeking a common front against what they see as aggression from Vladimir Putin's Russia.

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland (centre) delivers the opening remarks at the meeting of the foreign ministers of the G7 nations being held in Toronto, where North Korea and Iran are expected to be high on the agenda.(Reuters)

Glean clues

The envoys were also keen to glean clues from their US colleague about whether President Donald Trump would tear up the Iran nuclear deal and how he would handle a planned summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un.

The ministers from the world's most powerful democracies are in part meeting to set the stage for June's G7 summit of rich-world leaders in Charlevoix, Quebec.

Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland hosted the meeting and invited her G7 colleagues plus the European Union's representative to a working lunch to discuss the crisis in Ukraine, where Russian-backed rebels have seized the eastern Donbas region.

Afterwards, she said the G7 members had "reaffirmed our unity in support of Ukraine and a rules-based international order where state sovereignty and territorial integrity are respected by all.

Acting US Secretary of State John Sullivan's first bilateral meeting was with Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, to reaffirm "the United States' ironclad support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression."

G7 capitals are also worried about Russia's support for Syrian leader Bashar al Assad's regime in his country's brutal civil war and the alleged attempt by Russia to kill a defector with a nerve agent on British soil.

After their lunch, the ministers held a meeting on North Korea and nuclear non-proliferation.

North Korea invite

Last month, in one of the most surprising twists in world affairs for decades, Trump accepted an invitation from Pyongyang's eccentric autocrat Kim to a summit to discuss to discuss his nuclear disarmament.

The G7 members, including front line state Japan, support efforts to convince Kim to end his efforts to develop a strategic nuclear missile arsenal, but are also keen to hear more from the US side.

Kim is sure to make demands of the West, and allies are keen to ensure that Trump does not give too much away to secure a historic deal.

The North Korea meeting will be followed by one of the so-called "Quad" – the United States plus Britain, France and Germany, the Western partners who, with China and Russia, signed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Trump has threatened to tear up the agreement unless European capitals agree to supplement it with tougher controls on Iran's missile programme and future ability to return to nuclear fuel enrichment.

But his partners continue to believe the implementation of the agreement under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) represents the best way to prevent Tehran from seeking the atomic bomb, and will not miss a chance to lobby Sullivan to convince Trump to reverse course.

Progress made

"We've been negotiating with the Europeans," a senior US official told reporters ahead of the talks. "We've made a great deal of progress but we're not there yet."

Ahead of the Quad meeting, Sullivan stepped aside for a brief one-on-one meeting with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

As the pair sat down in the office of the chancellor of the University of Toronto, Johnson could be heard telling his US counterpart "one of the things we are concerned about now is the JCPOA and where that is headed."

Ahead of Sunday's meetings, the US official had briefed reporters that the talks would focus on the way forward in Syria, Iran's alleged "malign activities" in the Middle East region and North Korea's missile and nuclear programmes.

The ministers would also, he said, discuss maritime security in the context of protecting freedom of navigation in the South China Sea in the face of China's moves to reinforce its disputed claim on the waters.

After the foreign affairs meetings, the ministers will be joined on Monday by their domestic security counterparts and the discussions will be widened to encompass counterterrorism and cybersecurity.