Neither Trump nor Europe Can Renegotiate the Iran Nuclear Deal, Russia Warns

Europe and the United States are not authorized to change the Iran nuclear deal without the input of Russia and China, a top Russian diplomat said Wednesday.

"If the European trio reaches an agreement with the Americans on something, neither our Chinese counterparts nor we have anything to do with that. Everyone signed the agreement, and no one has authorized the European trio to talk on behalf of a group of six nations," Vladimir Chizhov, Russia's permanent representative to the European Union, said during a visit to Brussels.

The comments were made one day after President Donald Trump met with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in Washington, D.C., where the French leader stressed the importance of maintaining the deal. The Iran nuclear deal, known more formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was signed in 2015 by the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany. It agreed to lift economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for imposing limitations on the country's uranium enrichment, which could lead to the development of nuclear weapons.

Trump is a longtime opponent of the deal, which was brokered under his predecessor Barack Obama. European leaders have consistently argued, however, that the deal should be preserved. In order to placate Trump, some have floated the idea that the Europeans would meet with American negotiators to discuss potential modifications.

"You consider that the Iranian deal, the JCPOA—the one negotiated in 2015 with Iran —is a bad deal. For a number of months, I've been saying that this was not a sufficient deal, but that it enabled us, at least until 2025, to have some control over their nuclear activities," Macron said to Trump on Tuesday. "We therefore wish, from now on, to work on a new deal with Iran."

President Trump says the Iran nuclear agreement is a "bad deal" and "should have never, ever been made."

"If Iran threatens us in any way, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid."

— MSNBC (@MSNBC) April 24, 2018

Macron then went on to outline topics that he said would "shed light" on the places where U.S. and European views on the issue converge, including the importance of blocking Iran's nuclear activity until 2025, putting an end to Iran's ballistic missile activities, and countering Iranian influence in the wider Middle East, including countries such as Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

European allies have until May 12 to convince Trump not to impose economic sanctions on Iran again, a move that would effectively kill the Iran deal by removing incentives for Tehran not to develop its nuclear capabilities. Trump has shown few signs that he is willing to modify his hardline stance against the deal. Standing next to Macron during a press conference Tuesday, he said the deal should never have been made. But he did suggest that he might be open to what he called a "much bigger deal," which would include Macron's suggestions about addressing Iran's ballistic missile program and curbing its interference in the Middle East, both of which are excluded from the current agreement.

Both leaders signaled that further discussions were forthcoming. Later this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will also visit Washington and is expected to broach the same topic with Trump.

"Who knows what I am going to do on the 12th," he said Tuesday, referring to the deadline for a decision on sanctions. Even Russia's officials acknowledged that the European leaders and Trump probably don't see eye to eye.

"I believe it is premature now to say who struck a deal with whom. Judging by reports from Washington on the French president's visit, so far they have been talking about somewhat different things," Chizhov said Wednesday.