Brian Hook, U.S. Special Representative for Iran, attends an interview with Reuters at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, France, June 27, 2019.
Brian Hook, U.S. Special Representative for Iran, attends an interview with Reuters at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, France, June 27, 2019.

PARIS -  The U.S. special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook is meeting with top French, German and British diplomats in Paris for talks on the Persian Gulf crisis at a time when European powers are trying to save the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

European countries want to avoid a further escalation in tensions between the U.S. and Iran and are trying to persuade Iran not to leave the nuclear deal, which the U.S. pulled out of last year.

During a visit to Japan, French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters Thursday he hopes to convince U.S. President Donald Trump to open talks with Iran and avoid a war that would engulf the Middle East.

Macron said he is trying to play the role of mediator to ease the tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

”There is no brief war,” Macron warned. “We know when it's starting, but not when it's finishing.”

The French President is to meet Trump during a summit of the Group of 20 starting Friday in Japan.

Iran recently quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium as it slowly steps away from the 2015 deal.

It previously said it would break a 300-kilogram stockpile limit set by the accord by Thursday. However, there was no immediate acknowledgement from Tehran on Thursday that it did so over a holiday weekend.

Iran may be waiting to hear from Europe, which is to have a meeting about the nuclear deal Friday.

On Wednesday, Iran's U.N. ambassador urged Britain, France and Germany to take “timely” practical steps to preserve the agreement, “which is now in critical condition.”

The three are finalizing efforts to put in operation a complicated barter-type system known as INSTEX to keep up trade with Iran and avoid U.S. sanctions, as part of efforts to keep the nuclear deal alive.

The countries, and three other European Union nations, on Wednesday strongly urged Iran to abide by the agreement and “refrain from escalatory steps.”

The U.S. announced additional sanctions Monday on Iranian leaders over Iran's shooting down of a U.S. military surveillance drone last week

Iran's foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, criticized Trump on Twitter Thursday, warning that “sanctions aren't [an] alternative to war; they ARE war.”

The U.S. has said it may also sanction Zarif, Iran's top diplomat who helped negotiate the 2015 nuclear deal.