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G7: French diplomatic poker game on Iran fails

The French president tried to force the hand of his partners at the G7 to establish himself as the mediator on the Iranian nuclear issue, but without success.

Published: August 26, 2019, 9:53 am

    Biarritz

    It is no secret that Emmanuel Macron dreams of mediating international crises. On the occasion of the G7 he chaired this year, the head of the French state had prepared a real game of poker on the Iranian nuclear issue.

    But he never anticipated the game of his opponents. A confused sequence followed that could seriously undermine the credibility of Macron on the international scene after a show of diplomatic amateurism.

    The surprise visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the G7 in Biarritz on August 25, at the express invitation of Paris, was supposed to end in an announcement signalling the significant progress on the Iranian issue.

    At the end of the morning, a French diplomatic source had told AFP that the G7 leaders had “agreed to mandate” the French president to lead the dialogue with Tehran, and that Emmanuel Macron had been tasked “to send a message” to Iran on the basis of the exchanges that took place during this summit.

    Even if Macron had done his best to push his allies to find a common position so that he could assume the role of mediator with Tehran, French diplomacy visibly put the cart before the horse. A few minutes after the message of the Quai d’Orsay, Donald Trump replied that he had “not discussed” a possible common message to Iran.

    Trump did not bother to mention any mandate given to the French president on this issue either.

    Macron was therefore forced to admit that he had not received a “formal mandate from the G7” to open discussion with Tehran, and doubts on a possible joint statement were expressed.

    Having failed in its initial strategy, the Quai d’Orsay did its best to limit the damage. A diplomatic source hinted to AFP that the French side had informed their American counterpart of the arrival of Mohammad Javad Zarif. The categorical response of a White House official as quoted by Reuters, stated however that Donald Trump had not been warned in advance.

    The initiative of French diplomacy did not receive a nod from Berlin either. Angela Merkel said that the meeting between Mohammad Javad Zarif and a French delegation was a “side event”, and not part of the G7 itself.

    The German Chancellor, had been warned of the visit of Mohammad Javad Zarif two hours before.

    According to an Iranian diplomatic source quoted by Reuters: “The road is difficult, but it’s worth a try.”

    The US threat of duties on French products may have led the French president to understand that he cannot oppose the Trump administration too openly.

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