*We already have points of agreement, says Zarif
President Emmanuel Macron will on Friday hold talks on Iran’s contested nuclear programme with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the French presidency said, in a rare encounter between a Western head of state and a senior Iranian official.
Macron will meet Zarif just one day before France chairs a three-day summit of leaders of Group of Seven (G7) countries, including President Donald Trump, in the southern resort of Biarritz.
Zarif, who has been on a tour of Scandinavia, had earlier this week said he planned to hold talks in Paris.
The discussions between Zarif and Macron will come at a critical time for relations between Tehran and the West as Iran ramps up its nuclear programme in response to Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 deal over its atomic drive.
France and other EU powers have insisted they want to keep the nuclear deal alive, although many analysts warn the US pullout dealt it a near-fatal blow.
Macron has insisted that diplomacy is the only way to solve the standoff and twice in the last months dispatched his diplomatic adviser Emmanuel Bonne to Tehran.
A presidential official, who asked not to be named, said the talks would continue this channel.
Macron admitted in comments Wednesday there were “true disagreements” within the G7 over Iran but said he would “try to propose things” in the talks.
The French foreign ministry said earlier this month that it “needs no permission” to talk to Iran after Trump accused Macron of sending “mixed signals” to the Islamic Republic.
Zarif said in Norway on Thursday that Macron had made proposals to President Hassan Rouhani who had dispatched him to Paris “to see if we can finalise some of these ideas so each party can fulfill its obligations” under the nuclear deal.
“It will be a chance to see if we can find ground for understanding. We already have points of agreement,” Zarif said.
The Iranian foreign minister, a suave fluent English speaker, was earlier this month slapped with sanctions by the United States. But the EU insisted it would continue to work with him.
Zarif’s talks in Paris may also see the case raised of French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah who was detained in Iran earlier this year and is one of many Western-Iranian dual nationals to be held behind bars there.
British tanker seized by Iran to be released soon
Sweden has received “very strong indications” that a British oil tanker seized last month by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz is to be released soon, Swedish public service broadcaster SVT reported on Thursday, citing sources within Sweden’s foreign ministry.
The Stena Impero, British-owned but operated by Swedish company Stena Bulk, was captured by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on July 19 after passing through the strait at the mouth of the Gulf. The vessel is expected to be released within a few days, SVT reported, citing a source with insight into the talks.
“We look positively at what Foreign Minister Zarif himself has said publicly about hopes for a possible quick solution for Stena Impero, but we do not disclose what is said in the meetings,” a spokeswoman at Sweden’s foreign ministry said .