The Brief: Reality check on Iran sanctions and bridging Belgium's political divide

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By Joanna Gill  & Jack Parrock, Stefan Grobe
The Brief: Reality check on Iran sanctions and bridging Belgium's political divide

In this edition we look at the potential for detente with Iran and an initiative in Belgium to bridge the political divide over beer.


A reality check from Tehran. President Rouhani himself had indicated Iran was willing to engage with the West, just as the prospect of talks with President Trump emerged at the G7. But one day later and the optimism is fading, the Iranian leader insisting sanctions must be lifted.

"Without taking this step, the deadlock will not be unlocked. That step is moving away from sanctions. All sanctions against the Iranian nation which are illegal, oppressive and wrong must be lifted," Hassan Rouhani, Iranian President said.

A diplomatic drive by France's President Macron paved the way for a possible unprecedented encounter between the US and Iranian presidents. Donald Trump encouraging the idea.

"I don't know the gentleman, I think I know him a little bit just by watching over the last number of years what's happened. I'll tell you one thing, he's a great negotiator. I think he's going to want to meet, I think Iran wants to get this situation straightened out," commented Donald Trump.

But US suspicions about Iran's nuclear programme remain so entrenched any removal of sanctions before talks seems highly unlikely. Despite this latest false dawn the EU remains committed to reviving the 2015 agreement.  

Belgian beer therapy

Let's settle it over a pint.

That's the focus of a project in Belgium - to get the Flemish and Walloons to talk to one another while enjoying the national beverage.

The plan put is together by the country's largest brewing group - AB inBev.

Inviting Dutch- and French-speaking Belgians to learn more about each other, face to face, over a non-alcoholic beer at locations along the border separating the two linguistic communities.

"They are, let's say, a bit placed in the position of politicians," explains Dave Sinardet, Free University of Brussels. "They have to find a compromise among each other on a number of important issues. Of course, the persons that are sitting there are not representative neither of the Flemish or the Francophones. You could also organize this kind of discussion between Flemish and between Francophones and you might also have a lot of difficulties to find a compromise."

At the hundreds of tables are being set up this week the main question is what constititutes the Belgian "national character"?

"We all love food, I think that is what unites us, our love of food. I'm not really a football fan, but I think lots of Belgians are. The points of discussion (opinions) can differ, but it's not because we are Flemish or Walloons."

But while beer may unite - Belgian politicians have been unable to form a government since elections in May.