Macron hopes for Trump-Rouhani summit in 'coming weeks'

Trump does not rule out meeting with Iranian president, but says circumstances have to be 'correct or right'.

    Macron hopes for Trump-Rouhani summit in 'coming weeks'
    Trump reacts during a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron at the end of the G7 summit in Biarritz, France [Carlos Barria/Reuters]

    US President Donald Trump said on Monday it was realistic to think that a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani could happen in the coming weeks "if the circumstances were correct or right". 

    "I have a good feeling. They have to be good players, if you understand what I mean. They can't do what they were saying they were going to do, because if they do that, they will be met with really very violent force. So I think they are going to be good," Trump told reporters at a news conference at a G7 summit in Biarritz, France. 

    "I think he is going to want to meet and get their situation straightened out. They are hurting badly," he said.

    Trump spoke alongside French President Emmanuel Macron who said that preparations were under way for a meeting between the two leaders in the coming weeks to find a solution to the nuclear standoff.

    "Two things are very important for us: Iran must never have nuclear weapons, and this situation should never threaten regional stability," Macron said. "What I hope is that in coming weeks, based on these talks, we can manage to see a summit between President Rouhani and President Trump."

    Macron did not provide details about when and where a summit could take place. Trump and Rouhani are expected to be at the UN General Assembly in New York at the end of September.

    Zarif makes surprise visit 

    European leaders have struggled to calm the deepening confrontation between Tehran and Washington since Trump pulled the United States out of Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and reimposed sanctions on the Iranian economy. 

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    But Macron has spent the summer trying to create conditions for a period of pause to bring the two sides back to the negotiating table.

    Those efforts took a surprise turn on Sunday when Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is under US sanctions, flew to the French seaside town of Biarritz where the G-7 leaders were meeting.

    Zarif held talks with Macron and British and German officials before returning home. Though potentially a diplomatic minefield, Macron's gamble with Zarif appears to have worked out for now, as Trump said he endorsed the French president's initiative, despite new US sanctions against Zarif. 

    While Trump reaffirmed Washington's goal of extracting farther-reaching security concessions from Iran, he told reporters at the summit he wanted to see "a really good Iran, really strong, we're not looking for regime change.

    "I knew [Zarif] was coming in and I respected the fact that he was coming in. We're looking to make Iran rich again, let them be rich, let them do well, if they want," Trump said. 

    Trump macron
    France's President Emmanuel Macron gestures past US President Donald Trump during a joint-press conference in Biarritz on the third day of the annual G7 meeting [ludovic Marin/AFP] 

    In a televised speech, Rouhani also appeared on the defensive, shielding his foreign minister against criticism from hard-liners who have rejected negotiations until sanctions are lifted.

    "We should not miss opportunities," Rouhani said. 

    "I believe that for our country's national interests we must use any tool. And if I knew that I was going to have a meeting with someone that would (lead to) prosperity for my country and people's problems would be resolved, I would not hesitate," he said. "The main thing is our country's national interests." 

    The 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers, reached when Trump's predecessor Barack Obama was in office, aimed to curb Iran's disputed uranium enrichment programme in exchange for the lifting of many international sanctions on Tehran.

    Since ditching the deal last year, Trump has pursued a policy of "maximum pressure" to try to force Iran into broader talks to restrict Iran's ballistic missile programme and end its support for proxy forces around the Middle East, as well.

    While Trump's European allies also want fresh negotiations with Iran, they believe the nuclear deal must be upheld to help ward off the risk of a wider war in the Middle East. Macron had already met Zarif in Paris on Friday in advance of the G7 summit.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies