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  • France's top diplomat Emmanuel Bonne shakes hands with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran.

    France's top diplomat Emmanuel Bonne shakes hands with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran. | Photo: Reuters

Published 10 July 2019

Bonne's mission is "to try and open the discussion space to avoid an uncontrolled escalation, or even an accident", according to French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

French President Emmanuel Macron's top diplomatic advisor held Wednesday high-level talks in Tehran aimed at saving the 2015 nuclear deal and easing tensions between Iran and the United States.

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Emmanuel Bonne met Rear-Admiral Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his deputy Abbas Araghchi.

Bonne's mission is "to try and open the discussion space to avoid an uncontrolled escalation, or even an accident", according to French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

The 2015 accord between Iran and world powers, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), promised sanctions relief, economic benefits and an end to international isolation in return for stringent curbs on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

But Tehran says it has lost patience with perceived inaction by European countries more than a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the United States out of the agreement.

"Negotiations are never possible under pressure," Zarif said before the meeting with Bonne, in reference to U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Pointing to the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA, he added that the Europeans "must solve that problem."

The European parties to the deal along with the EU's diplomatic chief on Tuesday called on Tehran to reverse its breaches of the agreement.

Iran "must act accordingly by... returning to full JCPOA compliance without delay", said a statement from the European Union and foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain.

'Very critical phase'

Bonne arrived in Tehran after Iran announced on Monday it had surpassed 4.5 percent uranium enrichment -- above the 3.67 percent limit under the accord, though still far below the 90 percent necessary for military purposes.

Earlier this month, it was confirmed that Iran surpassed 300 kg of enriched uranium reserves, another limit that was imposed by the deal.

But in an apparent effort to boost France's diplomatic prospects, Le Drian described these breaches as "slight excesses".

At the request of the U.S., the International Atomic Energy Agency was to hold a special meeting on Iran's nuclear program at its Vienna headquarters on Wednesday.

A source at the French presidency said "we are in a very critical phase. The Iranians are taking measures that are in violation (of the agreement) but (they) are very calibrated".

"Donald Trump is a dealmaker," the source added. "The Iranians exaggerate, but not too much, and Trump is exerting maximum pressure but he is doing this so that he can get a deal."

After Washington withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018, it reimposed stinging sanctions on Tehran, hitting the banking and oil sectors hard.

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