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Iran FM Zarif hold talks with French President at sidelines of G7 summit

PARIS (FRANCE):  Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif held talks with France’s President Emmanuel Macron at the sidelines of the G7 summit following a surprise invite to the gathering.

Mohammad Javad Zarif landed on Sunday in the French seaside town of Biarritz, where leaders of the G7 nations – the United States, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Japan – were meeting to discuss a host of issues, including global trade, climate change and Iran’s nuclear programme.

Soon after landing, Zarif went into a three-and-a-half-hour meeting with French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian. The top Iranian diplomat also spent half an hour with French President Macron.

“Iran’s active diplomacy in pursuit of constructive engagement continues,” Zarif said in a post on social media. “Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying.”

His plane departed moments after the whirlwind meeting ended.

An official in Macron’s office said the discussions were “positive”.

Macron, the host of this year’s G7 summit, has been leading efforts to defuse tensions triggered by US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of an internationally-brokered deal that offered Iran relief from global sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.

After the unilateral exit, Washington reimposed punishing sanctions on Iran, including on its oil and banking sectors.

Zarif did not meet Trump, who was also at the G7 meeting.

Macron decided to invite the Iranian foreign minister to Biarritz after hosting a dinner of G7 leaders on Saturday night, a French official said. The invite had been made “in agreement with the United States”, the official added, contradicting a claim by the White House that Trump  had not been informed of Zarif’s arrival.

Macron had also hosted Zarif for talks in Paris on the eve of the summit on Friday.

The French president is urging Trump to offer some sort of relief to Iran, according to Reuters and AFP, such as lifting sanctions on oil sales to China and India, or a new credit line to enable exports. While the nuclear deal’s remaining signatories – France, Germany, UK, China and Russia – oppose the US move, they have struggled to protect Iran from the US sanctions.