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Macron holds talks with Iranian FM ahead of G7 summit

PARIS, Aug 23 (KUNA) -- French President Emmanuel Macron and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday discussed the impasse in the Vienna Nuclear Accords signed in 2015 by Tehran and the P5+1 countries (US, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain).
In May 2018, President Donald Trump withdrew unilaterally from the Vienna agreement and re-imposed punitive sanctions on Iran to exert pressure on Tehran to renegotiate the nuclear deal.
All other signatories have maintained that Iran is respecting its agreement, at least until July when it started to violate certain limits put on it by the accord.
Trump has also warned non-US entities that Washington would place them under "extra-territorial" sanctions if they do business with Iran, a threat taken seriously by many major French and European companies that subsequently withdrew from Iran, provoking an economic crisis when accumulated with Iranian losses from lower oil exports.
Macron met with Zarif in private but diplomats who requested anonymity said the Iranian official delivered a letter to the French leader from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the contents of which were not revealed.
Leaving the talks, Zarif told journalists that both sides had presented proposals to try to unblock the situation and the Iranian Foreign Minister commented that the French ideas "go in the right direction." Zarif described the meeting as "good and constructive" and the objective is to restart some form of negotiations on saving the implementation of the 2015 accord.
Iran in July started violating the Vienna accords by enriching uranium beyond the agreed 3.67 percent level and it increased enriched uranium stockpiles above a 300kg ceiling agreed in 2015. These violations have been monitored and registered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Iran complains that the European signatories of the nuclear agreement - France, Germany and Britain (E3) - have not responded quickly enough with their obligations to provide economic benefits to Iran in exchange for full compliance with the original accords.
The E3 have developed a parallel trading mechanism (INSTEX) to allow for exchanges with Iran, and which would legally circumvent US sanctions, but the system has been complex and very long to become operational.
Iran is threatening other steps to put it in violation of the Vienna accord in about a month if there is no progress on trade and exchanges with Europe, in particular, and Tehran says the ball is in the Europeans' court, as it has no faith in any breakthrough with the US.
Macron will be trying to bridge the gap between the US and Iran at the G7 meeting this weekend.
However, there is also pressure to make Iran accountable for its behavior in the region and for its continued testing of ballistic missiles in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
France has said that Iran is having a "destabilizing" impact in the Arab Gulf region, and beyond, by supporting and arming rebel groups or other factions in several countries, among them in Yemen where Iran has armed Houthi rebels with sophisticated drones and missiles to bolster the rebels' aim of seeking the overthrow of the legitimate government in Sana'a.
These weapons are regularly used by Houthis to attack civilian targets in Saudi Arabia.
Iran is also present with elite frontline fighting units in Syria, where it is supporting the forces of President Bashar Al-Assad. Tehran is also known to militarily and otherwise support the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon and the Hamas Palestinian group in Gaza. Other militias or groups in the region also receive Iranian support.
The US accuses Iran of threatening maritime security in the vital Strait of Hormuz through which 25 percent of world supplies pass, just off the Iranian coast.
Attacks against foreign tankers these past three months in UAE and international waters have also sent shockwaves around the region and have prompted the US and other nations to send naval task forces to provide security for tankers in the zone.
Iran will be one of the core issues at the three-day G7 summit that begins Saturday in the southwestern resort town of Biarritz. (end) jk.aa