Macron's US visits set to be dominated by differences over trade, Iran nuclear deal

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte arrive at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Macron is in Washington for the first state visit hosted by US President Donald Trump. (AFP)
Updated 24 April 2018
0

Macron's US visits set to be dominated by differences over trade, Iran nuclear deal

  • While the French leader has tried to develop a close relationship with Trump since he took office in May, he has so far seen little tangible results on issues from Iran to climate politics.
  • Macron also wants to persuade Trump to exempt European nations from metal tariffs that are part of the US president’s plan to reduce chronic trade deficits with countries around the world, chiefly China.

WASHINGTON: French President Emmanuel Macron arrives in Washington on Monday for a state visit likely to be dominated by differences over trade and the nuclear accord with Iran.
As Macron headed west, the Iranian government urged European leaders to convince US President Donald Trump not to tear up the 2015 deal between Tehran and six world powers. Allies also spoke out in support of it.
Macron said on Sunday there was no “Plan B” for keeping a lid on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
He is on something of a rescue mission for what is formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which Trump has said he will scrap unless European allies fix what he called “terrible flaws” by mid-May.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on European leaders to support it.
“It is either all or nothing. European leaders should encourage Trump not just to stay in the nuclear deal, but more important to begin implementing his part of the bargain in good faith,” Zarif wrote on his Twitter account.
The deal reached between six powers — all of whom but Germany are nuclear-armed — and Tehran put curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Macron said on Fox News Sunday that it would be better to protect the deal instead of to get rid of it as there was no other plan.
“Is this agreement perfect and this JCPOA a perfect thing for our relationship with Iran? No. But for nuclear — what do you have? As a better option? I don’t see it,” he said.
Macron’s visit is the first time Trump has hosted a state visit since he took power in January 2017. While the French leader has tried to develop a close relationship with Trump since he took office in May, he has so far seen little tangible results on issues from Iran to climate politics.
The two men will get a sense of their two countries’ shared history during an evening meal on Monday night at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, the first US president and Revolutionary War commander whose alliance with France was critical to victory over the British.
Working meetings will be held at the White House on Tuesday before Macron addresses Congress the following day, the anniversary of the day that French General Charles de Gaulle addressed a Joint Session of Congress in 1960.
Trump and the 40-year-old French leader began their friendship a year ago in Belgium with a jaw-clenching handshake. While some other European leaders have kept a certain distance from Trump, Macron has worked hard to remain close to the US president and the two leaders speak frequently by phone.
Highlighting the difficulties Macron will face reversing Trump’s mind on Iran, US non-proliferation envoy Christopher Ford said Tehran presenteded a very real long-term challenge.
“Iran (is) a country that for years illegally and secretly sought to develop nuclear weapons, suspended its weaponization work only when confronted by the potentially direst of consequences without ever coming clean about its illicit endeavours,” he told a non-proliferation conference in Geneva.
Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program was for peaceful purposes.
Macron also wants to persuade Trump to exempt European nations from metal tariffs that are part of the US president’s plan to reduce chronic trade deficits with countries around the world, chiefly China.
His visit comes at a time of mounting alarm in Europe over the knock-on effect that US sanctions on Russia will have on their own manufacturing industries.
French officials said Paris and other European governments were coordinating efforts to persuade Trump to ease sanctions on Russia, including measures against Russian aluminum producers.
“There are concerns raised by the extraterritoriality effects of the new sets of sanctions,” a French finance minstry source said. “Europeans...have jointly warned the US Administration about the economic impact and consequences and the need to find solutions.”
The official said France, Germany, Italy and Ireland were working together on the matter. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold talks with Trump in Washington later in the week.
Macron and Trump are also due to discuss Syria, less than two weeks after the United States, France and Britain launched airstrikes in Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed dozens in Douma, Syria.
Macron said last week that he believed he had persuaded Trump to keep US troops in Syria, though Trump has been insistent on bringing them home.


Pakistan’s top court grants bail to former PM Sharif on medical grounds

Updated 2 min 38 sec ago
0

Pakistan’s top court grants bail to former PM Sharif on medical grounds

  • Nawaz Sharif is serving a seven-year sentence imposed last year for failing to disclose his source of income to acquire Al-Azizia Steel Mills

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to release former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on bail for six weeks to receive medical treatment but said he would not be allowed to leave the country.
Sharif is serving a seven-year sentence imposed last year for failing to disclose the source of income that allowed him to acquire the Al-Azizia Steel Mills in Saudi Arabia. He has appealed.
The case was heard by a three-judge panel headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.
The three-time former premier has been suffering from a heart condition and kidney problems and has been admitted to hospital. A previous bail appeal was rejected last month.
The Supreme Court removed Sharif from office in July 2017 for not disclosing part of a salary drawn from his son’s company and he was later convicted in two separate cases of failing to disclose sources of income.
In one of those cases, over the ownership of upmarket properties in London, the high court granted him bail last September, suspending a 10-year sentence until a final decision on his appeal against the conviction.
The appeal process in both cases is continuing.
Sharif has termed the charges against him politically motivated and accused the military and courts of working together to end his political career and destabilize his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party.