G7 Charlevoix communique shies away from addressing Iran deal

The summit’s final communique called on Iran to abide by international norms and stop its destabilising behaviour.
Thursday 14/06/2018
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (R) meets with US President Donald Trump during the G7 Summit in the Charlevoix town of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, on June 8. (Reuters)
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (R) meets with US President Donald Trump during the G7 Summit in the Charlevoix town of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, on June 8. (Reuters)

QUEBEC - Dominated by divisions over trade and tariffs, the 2018 Group of Seven summit concluded with the Iran nuclear deal unaddressed.

The group’s final communique mentioned a threat from Iran that G7 countries are “recognising” but failed to tackle the future of the nuclear deal reached with world powers in 2015. US President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in May.

A senior Canadian official said before the summit that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the host of the G7 gathering, expected a consensus among the group’s leaders with regards to the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

However, Trump, whose remarks before the summit on inviting Russia back into the group and tweets after the summit instructing his representatives to not endorse the final communique were the highlights of this year’s meetings.

“The G7 nations remain committed to controlling Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” Trump said at a news conference on June 9. “With or without them, these ambitions will be controlled.”

While not intended to be a decision-making body, the G7 aims to forge consensus among its membership on key economic and political issues.

The summit’s final communique called on Iran to abide by international norms and stop its destabilising behaviour. It is clear there is concern about Tehran threatening international peace and security but splits remain on what action is appropriate to address the threat.

“Iran is trying to put pressure on Europe to maintain at least minimal economic ties,” said Barbara Slavin, director of Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, who said she initially doubted progress on the issue at the G7 meeting. “I think Iran will remain in the JCPOA while taking minor steps to show it is capable of rapidly accelerating its nuclear programme if it so decides.”

While it said to keep enrichment within limits set by the 2015 deal, Iran announced the opening of a centrifuge assembly centre at its Natanz nuclear site, which hints that Tehran could accelerate uranium enrichment activity.

Before the summit, European powers, including Germany and the United Kingdom, formally requested from the United States exemptions to continue “doing legitimate trade in Iran” without being affected by American sanctions. Major European companies are winding down business activities with Iran, anticipating renewed US sanctions, however.

“I doubt the Trump administration will grant many waivers,” said Slavin, although European governments will remain committed to the Iran deal.

“I don’t believe the Trump administration has a real strategy,” she added. Trump’s goal “is to put as much pressure as possible on Iran and to hurt its economy to try to diminish Iranian support for regional actors. I doubt this will succeed.”