The failed attempt at "direct contact" between Trump and Rohani in New York

Emmanuel Macron tried everything to organize an interview between the American president and his Iranian counterpart at the United Nations General Assembly at the end of September.

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Emmanuel Macron and Iranian President Hassan Rohani on September 23 in New York.
Emmanuel Macron and Iranian President Hassan Rohani on September 23 in New York. JOHN IRISH / REUTERS

Throughout these forty-eight hours in New York, on 23 and 24 September, in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, Emmanuel Macron spared no effort. The challenge was significant: to arrive at a " direct contact " between US President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rohani to try to stop the escalation in the Gulf.

Just before leaving for the French capital, the head of state decided to play his all. He had just finished his final press conference and then had dinner in a pizzeria right in front of the French mission. Pretending a walk in the streets of New York, he then left with his diplomatic adviser Emmanuel Bonne to the Millennium Hotel, a hundred meters away, where was installed the Iranian delegation. At 9 pm, Donald Trump was to call Hassan Rohani on a special secure line.

The New Yorker then the New York Times, in its edition of September 30, have recounted, based on Iranian sources, the vain expectation of the French president while his Iranian counterpart finally refused to leave his room to take the call. "Things had moved on the bottom, the conditions were right for such a direct telephone exchange and it was worth it to complete this attempt. But, finally, Hassan Rohani has not received the green light from Tehran ", explains a high French diplomatic source. It was finally Mr. Macron who dropped out, explaining to Donald Trump that, despite his efforts, this direct conversation could not take place.

A real disappointment for Paris

Emmanuel Macron, during these two days, had met three times with Donald Trump and twice with Hassan Rohani. The first meeting, on September 22, with the Iranian president, lasted two hours in a rather cordial climate. The French president returned on the 23rd in the late afternoon to the Millennium Hotel, then joined by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Already, then, it was obvious that a Trump-Rohani bilateral meeting was impossible, even in a broader framework with the representatives of all the signatory countries of the July 2015 Vienna Agreement (JCPOA) – the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany – putting for ten years under international control the Iranian nuclear program.

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There was only one card left for the French president: organize a direct telephone conversation between Mr. Trump from his hotel, Le Lotte, and Mr. Rohani, in his own. It was played on the wire. "The American technicians would obviously not have been able to install the special line on the floor where the Iranian officials resided without the agreement of the latter", stresses a French diplomatic source.


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