U.S. President Donald Trump and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron have said they want to negotiate a new deal with Iran going beyond its nuclear pact with world powers to encompass broader concerns in the region.
Their suggestion after discussing the Iran nuclear deal at a White House meeting on April 24 came as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif formally proposed creating a new forum for dialogue in the Middle East in an address at the United Nations.
Macron, who is on a three-day state visit to the United States, said he wants to work on a new agreement with Iran that brings representatives from countries in the Middle East and "regional powers," including Turkey and Russia, to the negotiating table.
Macron said after his talks with Trump, who has threatened to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal, that he believes it will be possible to "build something new that will cover all of our concerns."
"I believe that the discussions we've had together make it possible to open the way, to pave the way for a new agreement," Macron said at a joint news conference with Trump.
Macron went to the White House on a mission to salvage the nuclear deal, which he said could be seen as one "pillar" of a broader accord that he said should include three other "pillars."
The new deal would address Western concerns with Iran's ballistic missile program, and would attempt to come up with political solutions to "contain" Iran's involvement in Lebanon and in the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars, he said.
The broader deal would address the "whole of the situation in the region," and would be the only way to "bring about stability" there while also addressing Trump's criticisms of the nuclear deal, Macron said.
Trump said he backed the idea of trying to forge a broader deal with Iran. He said France and the United States agree not only that Iran “cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon" but that the "regime must end its support of terrorism.”
"I think we will have a great shot at doing a much bigger, maybe, deal," said Trump. "We'll see...whether or not it will be possible to do a new deal with solid foundations."
Trump claimed the nuclear deal has "decayed foundations. It's a bad deal, it's a bad structure. It's falling down." And he said it should have addressed broader concerns about Iran's activities in the Middle East.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which Iran signed with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany, put curbs on Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.
"They should have made a deal that covered Yemen, that covered Syria, that covered other parts of the Middle East," Trump said. "No matter where you go in the Middle East, you see the fingerprints of Iran behind problems."
Neither Trump nor Macron indicated whether Iran would get something in return for concessions they indicated they would be seeking on Tehran's missile development and intervention activities in the Middle East.
Iran did not immediately react to the proposal, but it came as Iran's top diplomat visited New York and proposed creating a forum with other nations in the Persian Gulf region to restart dialogue and address mutual security issues.
Zarif first floated the idea in an address to the Council on Foreign Relations on April 23, saying it was time for both Tehran and its biggest regional rival Saudi Arabia to abandon any "hegemonic illusions" and try to live peaceably together.
"Advancing hegemonic illusions or attempting to achieve security at the expense of the insecurity of others" has led to numerous conflicts around the Persian Gulf, Zarif told the UN General Assembly on April 24.
"We here invite our neighbors in this volatile waterway, which has seen too many wars, to join us in this endeavor," he said.
UN diplomats said Iran appears to be signaling it is ready to put pressure on its allies, the Huthi rebels in Yemen, to return to peace negotiations with the Saudi-backed Yemeni government..
Some diplomats saw Zarif's proposal as a sign that Tehran is willing to address U.S. complaints about its behavior in the region.
While at the UN, Zarif met with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who held meetings earlier this month with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to press for an end to the war in Yemen.
On the sidelines of the UN meeting, Zarif also met with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to discuss the fate of the Iran nuclear deal as Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares for her White House visit on April 27.