Trump: Iranian leadership ‘wants to meet’

The idea of a Donald Trump-Hassan Rouhani meeting was floated last month by French President Emmanuel Macron. (Reuters)
Updated 13 September 2019

Trump: Iranian leadership ‘wants to meet’

  • ‘I can tell you that Iran wants to meet’
  • favor. Both ... must be abandoned.” Arch-foes Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said he believes that Iran’s leadership wants to talk, adding to expectations that he is trying to arrange a summit with his Iranian counterpart at the upcoming UN assembly.
“I can tell you that Iran wants to meet,” he told reporters at the White House.
Trump has repeatedly indicated he is ready to meet with President Hassan Rouhani, who is expected to attend the UN General Assembly in New York this month. However, the Iranians have so far not given a positive response.
On Wednesday, Rouhani blasted the Trump administration, which has poured pressure on Iran, saying “the Americans must understand that bellicosity and warmongering don’t work in their favor. Both ... must be abandoned.”
Arch-foes Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal and began re-imposing punitive measures.
Iran responded by scaling back its commitments to the accord, which gave it the promise of sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
However, some analysts see hope for more compromise following this week’s exit of Trump’s hard-line national security adviser John Bolton, who in the past has called for the use of military force and regime change.
Bolton’s departure came just days after Iran announced it had fired up centrifuges to boost its enriched uranium stockpiles in another step back from the deal.
Hesameddin Ashena, an adviser to Rouhani, hailed Bolton’s dismissal as “a clear sign of the defeat of America’s maximum pressure strategy.”
Yet even with Bolton gone, top Trump officials have shown no signs of backing down from the strategy of sanctions against Iran.
“Now the president has made clear he is happy to take a meeting with no preconditions, but we are maintaining the maximum pressure campaign,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said after Bolton’s departure.
The idea of a Trump-Rouhani meeting was floated last month by French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been spearheading European efforts to de-escalate tensions.
Rouhani said in response that Iran was ready to comply with the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, only if the Americans did so too.


French FM holds Iraq talks on Daesh prisoners in Syria

Updated 47 min 46 sec ago

French FM holds Iraq talks on Daesh prisoners in Syria

  • One of the issues is Iraq’s use of death penalty, which is outlawed throughout EU
  • Several EU countries sent technical missions to Baghdad to assess the situation

BAGHDAD: France’s top diplomat held talks in Baghdad on Thursday about transferring foreign militants from northern Syria, where a Turkish offensive has triggered fears of mass jailbreaks, to be tried in Iraq.
European governments are worried that the Turkish operation will allow the escape of some of the 12,000 suspected Daesh group fighters — including thousands of foreigners — held by Syrian Kurds.
The issue was top of the agenda for French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in his talks with his Iraqi counterpart Mohammed Ali Al-Hakim, President Barham Saleh and Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi.
“We need to work things out with the Iraqi authorities so that we can find a way to have a judicial mechanism that is able to judge all these fighters, including obviously the French fighters,” Le Drian told French TV channel BFM on Wednesday.
The aim is for foreign militants to be tried in Iraqi courts while upholding certain principles of justice and respect for human rights, a French diplomatic source said.
One issue will be Iraq’s use of the death penalty, which is outlawed throughout the EU.
Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden sent officials on a technical mission to Baghdad this week to assess the situation.
“There are talks between the Americans, the British, French and Iraqis about funding the construction of prisons,” Hisham Al-Hashemi, an Iraqi expert on Daesh, told AFP.
Hundreds of foreigners have been sentenced to death or life imprisonment in Iraq for belonging to Daesh.
Eleven French militants handed over to Iraqi authorities early this year by US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria were sentenced to death by a court in Baghdad.
In April, Iraq offered to try foreign Daesh suspects in exchange for operational costs.
One Iraqi official said Baghdad had requested $2 billion to put the suspects on trial.
Turkey on Monday accused Kurdish forces of deliberately releasing Daesh prisoners held at a prison in the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad “in an attempt to fuel chaos in the area.”
Kurdish officials claimed that Turkish bombardments had allowed nearly 800 relatives of foreign Daesh fighters to escape from a camp for the displaced.
According to the Kurdish administration, there are around 12,000 suspected Daesh fighters in the custody of Kurdish security forces across northeastern Syria.
At least 2,500 of them are non-Iraqi foreigners of more than 50 different nationalities. Tunisia is thought to have the biggest contingent.
Officials in Paris say 60 to 70 French nationals are among those held.
The rest are around 4,000 Syrians and roughly the same number of Iraqis.
The fighters, who were detained mostly in the course of operations led by Kurdish forces and backed by the US-led coalition against Daesh, are detained in at least seven facilities.
Western governments such as France have been reluctant to take them back, for lack of a clear legal framework and fears of a public backlash.
Le Drian said Wednesday that the security of Kurdish-run prisons holding suspected militants in northern Syria was “currently” not threatened by the Turkish military operation.