PARIS • French President Emmanuel Macron held talks with Iran's Foreign Minister yesterday, ahead of a Group of Seven (G-7) meeting, where he will attempt to soothe tensions between Teheran and Washington at what risks being a stormy summit.
"We are at a critical moment," Mr Macron had warned on Wednesday, acknowledging that Iran is "laying out a strategy for exiting the JCPOA", the abbreviated name of the 2015 accord reining in the country's nuclear ambitions.
He admitted this week there were "true disagreements" over Iran within the G-7 club of the world's biggest economies, which are meeting in France this weekend.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Iranian media that it had been a construc-tive encounter, but warned that "for us, the Vienna nuclear deal is not renegotiable".
The United States pulled out of the nuclear agreement last year and reimposed sanctions on Iran, including secondary sanctions that would affect companies from European and other countries trading with Iran.
Teheran has responded with its own phased break with provisions in the agreement that limit its nuclear activities in order to make it technically impossible for the country to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran has said that if the agreement is not properly implemented, it will start enriching uranium next month at a level where it could be quickly processed into weapons-grade material.
Mr Zarif said he told Mr Macron that Iran was in favour of free shipping in the Gulf, "but this freedom should also be accorded to Iranian tankers nationally".
Recent months have seen several murky incidents involving tankers in the Gulf, as well as the British authorities temporarily impounding an Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar and Iran impounding a British-flagged tanker and a Panama-flagged one.
Divisions over Iran will be on full display when US President Donald Trump meets his European peers at the G-7 meeting starting today in the resort town of Biarritz.
Besides Iran, the agenda will also focus on the global economy at the three-day summit. The G-7 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the US.
Mr Trump will highlight US economic policies under his stewardship at the meetings, and encourage allies to follow the American model to stave off problems with the global economy, US officials said.
"We have seen growth rates that we didn't think were possible just a few years ago... Contrast this to what is happening in Europe, where growth is effectively flat," one US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Mr Trump will talk to his counterparts about how to open up European, Japanese and Canadian markets to ensure US businesses have avenues to sell goods and services and to ensure that allies' economies grow along with that of the US, the official added.
G-7 leaders also plan to hammer out "concrete measures" in response to the wildfires raging in the Amazon rainforest, putting them on a collision course with Brazil's right-wing leader.
Mr Macron went so far yesterday as to accuse his Brazilian counterpart of lying on pledges in June to help fight global warming.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro blasted the move to make the fires a topic for G-7 leaders without any participation by Brazil, saying that it reflected a "colonialist mentality".
The latest official figures show that 76,720 forest fires have been recorded in Brazil so far this year - the highest number for any year since 2013.