Emmanuel Macron made a splash by inviting the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs with whom he met on the sidelines of the G7. A visit made in agreement with the Americans, ensured the Elysée.
It is hardly saying that the news seized the members of the G7 participating delegations. At 14:13, an Airbus 320 flocked in the colors of the Islamic Republic lands on the tarmac of the airport of Biarritz – normally closed to air traffic – after a six-hour flight from Tehran.
The Elysee kept the suspense more than an hour before confirming the name of the mysterious passenger: Javad Zarif, the head of Iranian diplomacy. A real twist that comes as the Europeans try by all means to convince Donald Trump to make a gesture to save the nuclear deal – the “JCPOA” in the jargon of diplomats – that the US president has torn apart. May 2018.
The Elysee vows that Emmanuel Macron did not take the other leaders of the summit by surprise. According to the French presidency, the question of Zarif’s arrival was mentioned (and recorded) the day before at the first dinner that heads of state and government shared. However, the president’s entourage makes it clear that this was not a meeting at the summit. “It’s a Franco-Iranian meeting. Javad Zarif is not invited to the G7, “insists a Macron advisor. No question either for the Iranian dignitary to meet an American official.
- A meeting in the office of the mayor of Biarritz
Nevertheless, the presence of the Foreign Minister of Tehran a few hundred meters from the President of the United States – country with which the mullahs’ regime has no relation since 1979 – offers a nice diplomatic blow to Emmanuel Macron. This visit was made with the agreement of the American president, one assures one French side.
“The path is difficult, but it’s worth trying,” tweeted the surprise guest, just before leaving for Tehran at 19:33, after a meeting of about thirty minutes with Macron him -even. Earlier, it was in the office of the Mayor of Biarritz that Zarif had had a long talk for nearly two and a half hours with Foreign Ministers Jean-Yves Le Drian and Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire. German and British diplomatic advisers had also been associated with the meeting. “The discussions were positive,” argues the Elysee without going into the details of the negotiations. On Friday already, Zarif had gone to Paris to meet the French authorities, just before the start of the summit.
- Iranians have stopped meeting certain commitments
“This conversation is a continuation of the action of what the President has been doing for several months, said the entourage Emmanuel Macron. This is the opening of a negotiation that is about a return of Iran in accordance with the agreement. Following the unilateral withdrawal of the Americans from the JCPOA, the Iranians stopped in July to respect certain commitments in the agreement governing their nuclear program. For months, fearing a blaze in the Middle East, Macron is trying to find ways to defuse tensions and become a mediator between Washington and Tehran. The game is thorny as the American shines when it comes to the Islamic Republic.
The problem, to find how to reduce the impact of US sanctions that stifle the Iranian economy, impossible to do without Trump in this negotiation. This Sunday evening, the unpredictable American president had not commented on this surprise visit, simply ignoring it superbly, including on Twitter. A sign that the time of de-escalation has arrived? It will be necessary to wait for the reaction of the tenant of the White House to know if it was only a coup d’éclat on the G7 or a real turning point.