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Macron pushes for summit between US, Iranian presidents in G7 speech

Philippe Wojazer, Reuters | French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with US President Donald Trump at the end of the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019

Speaking at a joint press conference with US President Donald Trump at the G7 summit in Biarritz on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron pushed for a meeting between the US and Iranian presidents within the next few weeks.

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Macron said a "roadmap of sorts" for such a meeting had been laid out after the surprise visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the G7 summit at Macron's invitation.

The French president said he had also spoken to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, adding that if Trump and Rouhani were to meet there was hope for a new nuclear accord.

The meeting was a French initiative but Trump was kept informed, Macron said.

"If the circumstances were correct or right, I would certainly agree to that," Trump said of the possible talks. "But in the meantime, they have to be good players. You understand what that means."

Asked if he thought the timeline of just a few weeks proposed by Macron seemed realistic, Trump said: "It does," adding that he thought Rouhani would also agree to a meeting.

"At a given point in time, there will have to be a meeting between the American and Iranian presidents," Trump said later.

Reza Sayah discusses the French push for US-Iran talks

>> G7 Summit: Macron and Trump hold joint press conference in Biarritz

Macron went on to say a "very good deal" had been reached on a divisive new French tax on digital giants that the United States said unfairly targeted US companies. The so-called GAFA tax – named for the Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon tech giants – became another point of contention between France and the United States when it was passed in July.

France’s Macron told reporters that companies that pay the tax would be able to deduct the amount once a new international deal on how to tax internet companies is found next year. When reporters, however, pressed Trump on whether he would scrap earlier threats to slap retaliatory tariffs on French wine, the US president declined to answer either way.

Trump, for his part, keenly praised Macron who had done a "fantastic job" at the G7. "This was a very special, a very unified two and a half days, and I want to thank you," Trump told his host.

There was great unity. We would have stayed for another hour. Nobody wanted to leave. We were accomplishing a lot, but I think more importantly, we getting along very well."

Macron said the two presidents had found "real points of convergence, unprecedented, very positive, that will allow us to go forward in a very effective way”.

'We're already at war economically,' Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif tells FRANCE 24

Points of contention

Divisions between the United States and the other six of the world's major economies were apparent, however, on issues including trade policies, Russia and climate change. Macron spoke of the need to modernise the international tax system in order to eliminate an escalation of trade tensions.

The aim ultimately is to revamp international taxes within the OECD to combat harmful trade practices which are also harmful to the US economy,” he said.

Trump's recommendation that Russia rejoin the group was also met with a lack of enthusiasm. Russia was kicked out of what was then known as the G8 after it annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in 2014. And though G7 leaders felt it was still too soon to reintegrate Russia, Macron announced talks for September between Russia and the Ukraine aimed at making progress on the Ukrainian crisis.

The US president again broke ranks with his G7 counterparts when he skipped a key session on climate change at which the other leaders pledged $20 million to combat the wildfires raging in the Amazon, most of which will be used for fire-fighting aircraft.

When reporters questioned Trump on whether he planned to reduce his country’s reliance on fossil fuels, he quickly responded that the US "has tremendous wealth under its feet" and that he's not going to waste it "on dreams, on windmills".

During his closing remarks following the conclusion of the joint press conference with Trump, Macron elaborated on some of the more fractious aspects of the changes to digital services proposed by G7 participants.

As a consequence of the rapidly changing digital sector, we need certain rules, said Macron, because “we don’t just want it to be an economic jungle”.

He said that a charter for tackling online hate speech had gained widespread support, except from the US, which had declined to sign on.

“We had a very good discussion with the United States, which for legal reasons was not able to formalise the agreement on this point," Macron said, adding he was hopeful it could be done in the coming weeks.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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