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Iran Says There Are No 'Definitive' French Proposals To Ease Tensions

France's president Emmanuel Macron (L) greets Iranian president Hassan Rouhani at the Millennium Hotel near the United Nations on September 18, 2017, in New York.

Iran’s foreign ministry reacting to reports that France has offered to deposit $15 billion in a trade mechanism to help Iran conduct business regardless of U.S. sanctions, says that no proposal is yet definitive.

Last week, Al-Mayadin Arabic news network had reported that French President Emmanuel Macron has told Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani over the phone Europe is ready to deposit $15 billion in INSTEX trade mechanism in return for Iran not to further reduce its commitments under the 2015 nuclear agreement.

But Abbas Mousavi, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said in an interview with Iran’s state broadcaster on Monday that several proposals were made during the Macron-Rouhani phone conversations, but “none are definitive”. He added that until now there is no proposal that can be considered certain and reliable.

AL-Mayadin, with links to Hezbollah, had also reported that $5 billion of the proposed money will come from France and the rest from other signatories of the nuclear deal; Germany, the UK, Russia and China.

When the United States withdrew from the nuclear agreement called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018 and imposed sanctions on Iran, its European allies pledged to remain in the deal and try to save it from total collapse.

One issue that Iran insisted on was for Europe to ignore U.S. sanctions and continue to conduct trade. But European were reluctant to outright challenge U.S. sanctions, and in any case European companies would be reluctant to risk their business in the much larger American market and risk possible U.S. prosecution, regardless of what European governments said or did.

In January 2019, the European trio, France, Germany and the UK announced the establishment of INSTEX, a sort of clearing house to help Iran circumvent American banking sanctions. However, the mechanism was never implemented, partly as a result of U.S. pressure.

In May, unable to sell its oil, Iran announced that it would reduce its commitments under JCPOA and began increasing both the amount and purity of its uranium enrichment.

In the past few weeks, France’s Macron started a series of telephone discussions with Rouhani, in what was characterized as French mediation to find ways for reduction of tensions with Iran.

On August 8, President Donald Trump criticized Macron in a tweet for sending “mixed signals” to Iran.

"Iran is in serious financial trouble. They want desperately to talk to the U.S., but are given mixed signals from all of those purporting to represent us, including President Macron of France," Trump wrote in his tweet.

"I know Emmanuel means well, as do all others, but nobody speaks for the United States but the United States itself," Trump added.

It is not clear if Trump’s criticism was in reaction to reports that European are ready to finance the trade mechanism with Iran.