French President Emmanuel Macron attempted to arrange a telephone conversation between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and US President Donald Trump, but Rouhani dramatically refused to come out of his hotel room, leaving Trump waiting on the line and Macron waiting in the hallway, sources speaking to the New Yorker said.
According to the outlet, French technicians set up a secure hotline in a room on the same floor that Rouhani was staying at the Millennium Hilton Hotel across the street from the UN building on September 24, hoping that the Iranian president would agree to come out and speak with Trump.
One source said to be familiar with events of that evening, said that Macron answered a call from President Trump’s line at about 9:30 pm, but Rouhani never came out of his room to take the call.
“As we have been doing for several months, we worked in New York to get Iran to make new commitments and for the US, in exchange, to ease sanctions,” an unnamed French diplomat told the magazine. “We made technical arrangements in the event that a telephone call could take place. That call did not take place.”
The next day, Trump ordered a visa ban on senior Iranian government officials and their family members. Rouhani and his delegation boarded a plane and flew back to Tehran later Thursday.
On Tuesday, the New Yorker Times confirmed the report, retelling the drama after consulting sources with knowledge of the episode and lamenting that “In the end, Mr. Rouhani refused even to come out of his room. Mr. Macron left [New York] empty-handed and Mr. Trump was left hanging.”
US officials have yet to comment on the reports. Officials from Iran and France declined to comment.
Last week, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, President Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson were spotted on camera pleading with Rouhani to meet with President Trump, with Rouhani smiling and laughing but politely declining, citing US sanctions pressure.
Watch as French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson try to persuade Iranian President Rouhani to meet with US President Trump and Rouhani. Rouhani declined the offer, citing continued US sanctions pic.twitter.com/f4eqDAnXTZ— TRT World (@trtworld) 26 сентября 2019 г.
High Stakes Drama
As expected, the dramatic incident had people online talking, with users quipping that Rouhani had “ghosted” Trump and Macron, and suggesting that despite Trump’s tough appearance, he seemed to come off as “desperate” to meet with or talk to Rouhani, only to face “rejection.”
So you're saying Rouhani ghosted @realDonaldTrump *and* Macron? Wow... it's as if Rouhani knows Trump doesn't enjoy majority support in the US, nor does Macron in France. Why negotiate with losers? Also transcript likely to become public...— Chip Faust (@ChipFaust) 30 сентября 2019 г.
Iranians ask: How desperate is Trump to meet/talk to Rouhani?— Farnaz Fassihi (@farnazfassihi) 30 сентября 2019 г.
At G7: Trump insists to go with Macron to meet Zarif.
At UNGA: Trump waits on secret phone line to talk to Rouhani.
Both times rejection.https://t.co/vFS2Ue3PVW
Great reporting. Even Ruhani understands Trump's reality theater & useless photo-ops.— Ramin Talaie (@RaminTalaie) 30 сентября 2019 г.
Last week, US and Iranian officials made conflicting claims about possible talks between presidents Trump and Rouhani. After Tehran ruled out a meeting between the two presidents, Trump insisted that the meeting was contingent on lifting sanctions, and that he “said…NO!”
Iran wanted me to lift the sanctions imposed on them in order to meet. I said, of course, NO!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 27 сентября 2019 г.
Prior to last week’s drama, Trump told reporters that the US didn’t “need a mediator” for talks to be held, and said Iran’s officials “know who to call” if they want talks.
Warming relations between Iran and the United States which were achieved after the signing of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal declined dramatically in May 2018, when the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the agreement and began slapping Iran with a series of tough banking and energy sanctions. In May 2019, the US annulled sanctions waivers for over half a dozen major importers of Iranian oil, and sent a carrier strike group to the Middle East, citing an unspecified Iranian ‘threat’ to US interests in the region. Since then, the Persian Gulf has faced a string of dangerous incidents, including tanker sabotage attacks, ship seizures and drone shootdowns, with Tehran and Washington blaming one another for the escalations and warning of disastrous consequences in the event of war.