German Chancellor Angela Merkel encouraged talks between the United States and Iran Tuesday but said she felt it was "not realistic" for President Trump to lift sanctions on Tehran before a formal meeting between the two adversaries.
"I would welcome it if it came to talks between the U.S. and Iran but it won't work that all sanctions are first taken off the table and then there are talks," Merkel said on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, after speaking to both Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. "I think that is not realistic."
Trump has flip-flopped on whether to meet with Rouhani to renegotiate the terms of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), most recently recoiling from a potential meeting after key oil facilities in Saudi Arabia were attacked on Sept. 14. The U.S., along with Britain, France and Germany, joined in condemning Iran for the attacks and placed heavier sanctions on the Islamic Republic, which has denied responsibility for the attack.
Rouhani and Trump have remained at an impasse since Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal last year, increasing tensions between Washington and Tehran as Iran's economy continues to suffer under the weight of U.S. sanctions. The value of Iran's currency has plummeted by about 60 percent in the last year. Inflation is up 37 percent and the cost of food and medicine has soared between 40 percent and 60 percent, according to European Union figures.
Iran has also continued to stockpile and enrich uranium beyond the bounds of the agreement and is using advanced centrifuges to develop nuclear weapons in an attempt to put pressure on the remaining signatories to the JCPOA — Great Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — to provide more economic incentives to Tehran.
French President Emmanuel Macron joined Merkel in urging the U.S. and Iran to resume negotiations Tuesday saying "Now more than ever is the time for negotiations among Iran, the United States, the signatories of the JCPOA and regional powers, centered on the region's security and stability."
Trump condemned Iran in his speech at the U.N. Tuesday, saying that no nation should support Tehran's "blood lust" and "fanatical quest for nuclear weapons."
Rouhani, who is scheduled to address the global body Wednesday, has held firm that he is open to renegotiating the nuclear deal only if the U.S. first lifts sanctions.
Rouhani told Fox News' Chris Wallace in an exclusive interview Tuesday that "America is the supporter of terrorism" and Iran is "not seeking nuclear weapons."