A behind-the-scenes diplomatic effort that would have culminated with a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the resumption of negotiations was scuttled when Rouhani backed out at the last minute, according to a report in Politico on Tuesday.
A four-point plan was reportedly conceived by French President Emmanuel Macron, who arranged for the two leaders to meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last week.
As part of the agreement, Iran would have committed to upholding the 2015 nuclear deal, resuming long-term talks about its nuclear program, and ceasing “any aggression” in the Middle East.
For its part, the United States would have lifted its reimposed sanctions.
However, the plan was dashed when Rouhani demanded Trump publicly declare the removal of sanctions as a precondition for meeting, according to the report.
The incident followed a New Yorker report on Sunday which revealed that the French leader arranged a phone call between Trump and Rouhani last week, but that Rouhani left Trump waiting on the line and never joined the call.
“President Trump waited on the other end,” reported The New York Times. “All President Hassan Rouhani of Iran had to do was come out of his hotel suite and walk into a secure room where Mr. Trump’s voice would be piped in via speaker,” a feature which Macron had installed in coordination with Iranian administrative officials.
But “in the end, Mr. Rouhani refused even to come out of his room. Mr. Macron left empty-handed and Mr. Trump was left hanging.”
Despite pressure from Europe to maintain the nuclear deal brokered by former U.S. president Barack Obama, tensions between Iran and the United States have flared recently, with Iran seizing oil tankers and bringing down a U.S. drone over the Strait of Hormuz, and the United States withdrawing from the nuclear deal and reapplying heavy sanctions against the Islamic Republic.