French President Emmanuel Macron in talks with his U.S. and Iranian counterparts has raised the possibility of renegotiating provisions of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal after their scheduled expiration in 2025, French officials said.
The possibility was raised in separate one-on-one meetings with U.S. President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rohani on September 18 on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the officials said.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Macron sought to persuade Trump not to abandon the deal, as Trump has threatened to do repeatedly, because that risks triggering a renewed arms race to develop nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
France is one of six world powers that are parties to the deal, which restricted Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for relief from international sanctions. The United States, Russia, China, Germany, and Britain are the other parties.
To encourage Trump to stick with the deal, Le Drian said Macron expressed his willingness to return to negotiations over provisions that expire in 2025, such as its limits on Iran's uranium enrichment activities, pinpointing a grievance which is often cited by Israel and other opponents as their reason for rejecting the deal.
"It is essential to maintain [the deal] to avoid proliferation. In this period when we see the risks with North Korea, we must maintain this line," Le Drian told reporters at the UN in New York.
"France will try to convince President Trump of the pertinence of this choice, even if work can be done to complement the accord after 2025," he said.
Reuters quoted a senior French official as saying that Macron also raised the possibility of renegotiating expiring provisions after 2025 in his meeting with Rohani on September 18.
The official told Reuters that Macron also warned Rohani that Tehran should stop provoking the United States with its activities in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.
"We feel the post-2025 subject is a red line, but our president put it on the table because it's a concern and a legitimate request that we must make," the official told Reuters.
"2025 will arrive quickly and we have to be ready before January 1, 2025, so he asked that we think together how to work on this question."
The U.S. State Department confirmed that Trump and Macron discussed the Iran deal but did not say they discussed any renegotiation of sunsetted provisions.
Brian Hook, director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department, said Trump told Macron about the problems he sees with what he called a "deeply flawed" deal, and said he is still considering abandoning it in a decision expected next month.
"The president was very candid with him about what he thinks are the shortcomings... He told [Macron] that it is under review and that they are taking a hard look at the October 15th decision and more broadly how to fix the Iran deal," Hook said.
Hook said the French and American presidents also discussed an integrated strategy against Iran that would take into account what he described as Iran's support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program, its destabilization in the Middle East, and other aggressions.
In a separate meeting with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump also discussed what Hook described as Iran's "malign activities" in the Middle East, and discussed the need to prevent Iran from establishing any deep roots or organizing in Syria, he said.
Rohani in an interview with CNN on September 18 repeated Iran's warning that the United States would pay a heavy price if Trump makes good on his threats to scrap the deal.
"Exiting such an agreement would carry a high cost for the United States of America, and I do not believe Americans would be willing to pay such a high cost for something that will be useless for them,” Rohani said.
Trump earlier in the day had suggested that the United States will walk away from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers if it deems that the UN’s atomic agency is not tough enough in monitoring it.
"We will not accept a weakly enforced or inadequately monitored deal," Trump said in a message to an annual meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna that was read by U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
"The United States...strongly encourages the IAEA to exercise its full authorities to verify Iran's adherence to each and every nuclear-related commitment under the nuclear agreement," he added.
U.S. and UN watchdogs monitoring compliance have found Iran has adhered to the accord.
However, the Trump administration has frequently charged that Tehran breaks the "spirit" of the deal, including by continuing to test-launch ballistic missiles and rockets capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
It has also lobbied for tougher nuclear inspections in Iran, including at military sites.
But the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, called on the IAEA, which is monitoring the nuclear accord, to resist what he called Washington's "unacceptable demands."
Asserting that Iran is fully complying with terms of the accord, Salehi told the Vienna meeting that Washington’s “overtly hostile attitude and actual foot-dragging policies and measures" are "aimed at undermining the nuclear deal."
IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano, who was approved for another four-year term in office on September 18, said that the commitments undertaken by Iran under the nuclear deal “are being implemented.”
“Iran is now subject to the world's most robust nuclear verification regime," he claimed.
With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa and CNN