President Donald Trump warned Iran not to restart its nuclear program as French President Emmanuel Macron urged him to remain in the international agreement curbing the Islamic Republic’s atomic efforts.
Trump made his differences with Macron clear from the outset of a state visit on Tuesday, beginning an Oval Office meeting by saying the Iran deal was “insane, ridiculous, should never have been made.”
The US president also threatened Iran if it resumes its nuclear programme, even if the international accord collapses and US sanctions are re-enacted. “If they restart their nuclear programme, they’re going to have bigger problems than ever before,” Trump said. Macron’s office later issued a statement characterising Trump’s remarks as “‘the expression of strong positions.”
“We knew the topic was sensitive and was among the priorities of this state visit,” the statement said. It added that France would defend its and Europe’s positions on the Iran nuclear agreement, “which are — we believe — not incompatible with the US concerns.”
Trump plans to announce by a May 12 deadline whether or not the US will remain in the multi-nation Iran nuclear deal reached in 2015. If the US withdraws, Iran could accelerate its nuclear programme or consider actions such as leaving the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. European leaders including Macron are seeking to convince Trump the world is safer with the deal than without it.
After meeting with Macron, Trump said the two leaders “really had some substantive talks on Iran, maybe more than anything else.”
The State Department has been negotiating with European allies on side agreements to the Iran deal that could address the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile programme and its involvement in regional conflicts in Syria and Yemen. Iran has not indicated that it would sign onto any such agreement, however.
“We’re looking forward to doing something but it has to be done, and it has to be done strongly, and they’ve very much been butchers and we can’t allow that to happen,” Trump said of the nuclear agreement and Iran. “So we understand each other and we’ll see how that comes out. And we could have at least an agreement among ourselves fairly quickly. I think we’re fairly close to understanding each other.”
No European leader has a better relationship with the president, and Macron hopes to tap that goodwill to persuade Trump not to abandon an international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear programme. He wasn’t able to keep the US president from backing out of the Paris climate accord, but has nonetheless urged Trump to stick to American commitments to reduce carbon pollution.
Macron urged the president to consider the nuclear deal “in a wider regional context,” including the situation in Syria, where the US, France and the UK recently launched a joint strike to retaliate against the regime’s use of chemical weapons on rebels.
“We have a common objective,” Macron said. “We want to make sure there’s no escalation and no nuclear proliferation in the region. We now need to find the right path forward.”
Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister Theresa May have spent months coordinating with one another on the potential side agreements, which they hope will convince Trump to remain part of the agreement.
Macron took the occasion to urge Trump to maintain past US commitments to joint action with allies.
“It is together that we can resist the rise of aggressive nationalisms that deny our history and divide the world,” Macron said. “It is together that we will build a new, strong multilateralism that defends pluralism and democracy in the face of ill winds.” “We do not always agree on the solutions,” Macron said of climate change. “But it is also where the fate of our children is at stake.”