French President Emmanuel Macron has renewed his call for dialogue with Russia despite what he called its "huge mistake" in jailing opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, and offered to be an "honest broker" in talks between the United States and Iran.
Amid lasting tensions between the West and Russia, Macron has long pushed for a working relationship with Moscow under President Vladimir Putin and renewed his commitment to the strategy during a question and answer session with the Atlantic Council think tank on February 4.
His latest comments come as Moscow continues to ignore international calls to release Navalny, who on February 2 was sentenced to jail for almost three years for violating the terms of parole while recovering in Germany from a nerve-agent poisoning in August 2020. The Kremlin critic accuses Putin of ordering his poisoning -- a charge rejected by Russian officials.
"I think this is a huge mistake, even for Russian stability today," Macron said of the Moscow court's ruling, which critics say aims to silence Navalny.
But the French president also said that he favored dialogue with Moscow because Russia is "part of Europe."
It was "impossible" to have peace and stability in Europe without being able to negotiate with Russia, he said.
The West’s relationship with Russia has been severely strained over a variety of issues including Moscow’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, its support for separatists in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, election interference, and hacks that the European Union, the United States, and other countries have pinned on the Kremlin.
On Iran, Macron offered himself as a “honest broker” in talks between Tehran and Washington in order to revive a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
"I will do whatever I can to support any initiative from the U.S. side to reengage in a demanding dialogue, and I will...try to be an honest broker and a committed broker in this dialogue," he said.
In 2018, former President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, and started imposing crippling sanctions on Iran as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign aimed at forcing the country to negotiate a new agreement that would also address the country’s missile programs and its support for regional proxies.
In response to the U.S. moves, which were accompanied by increased tensions between Iran, the United States, and its allies, Tehran has gradually breached parts of the pact saying it is no longer bound by it.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on February 1 said that the new administration of President Joe Biden is willing to return to compliance with the 2015 accord if Iran does, and then work with U.S. allies and partners on a "longer and stronger" agreement including other issues.
The next day, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that the U.S. administration would be "consulting with our allies, consulting with our partners, consulting with Congress before we're reaching the point where we're going to engage directly with the Iranians and [be] willing to entertain any sort of proposal."
Price was responding to comments made by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggesting that the United States and Iran take synchronized steps to return to the nuclear accord.
Iranian officials have insisted that the United States should make the first move by returning to the agreement, which eased international sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran's disputed nuclear program.
They have also said that the country’s missile program and regional policies are off the table.
Macron argued in favor of new negotiations with Iran that would also place limits on Iran's ballistic missile program and include Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The two Iran foes were fiercely opposed to the 2015 deal and supported Trump's decision to pull the United States out.
"We have to find a way to involve in these discussions Saudi Arabia and Israel because they are some of the key partners of the region directly interested by the outcomes with our other friends of the region," Macron said.