Trump ready to meet Iranian president in potential breakthrough
US President Donald Trump said Monday at the G7 summit that he is prepared to meet his Iranian counterpart within weeks in what would amount to a stunning change of direction in the two countries’ smouldering standoff.
The potential breakthrough was announced by Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, who said he would facilitate the first face-to-face meeting between the US president and the Iranians.
The surprise news came after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a dramatic, unscheduled appearance on the sidelines of the summit held in Biarritz on Sunday at the invitation of Macron.
The 41-year-old French leader said the “conditions for a meeting” between Trump and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani “in the next few weeks” had been created through intensive diplomacy and consultations.
“If the circumstances were correct, I would certainly agree to that,” Trump said at a press conference with Macron at the end of three days of G7 talks.
Asked if he thought the timeline proposed by his French counterpart was realistic, Trump replied: “It does.”
“I think he’s going to want to meet. I think Iran wants to get this situation straightened out,” he added.
Both men will be in New York for the UN General Assembly at the end of September which could provide the stage for the talks.
Trump has put in place a policy of “maximum pressure” on Tehran over its disputed nuclear programme via crippling sanctions that critics see as raising the risk of conflict in the Middle East between the United States and Iran.
The US president last year unilaterally pulled out of a landmark 2015 international deal that placed limits on Tehran’s nuclear activities in exchange for trade, investment and sanctions relief. Trump said the deal gave the Iranians cover to keep pursuing a secret nuclear military programme which they insist does not exist.
Rouhani appeared to accept the idea of opening to talks with Washington.
“I believe that for our country’s national interests we must use any tool,” Rouhani said of Zarif’s Biarritz visit in a speech aired live on state television on Monday.
But hardliners criticised the initiative, with the ultra-conservative Kayhan newspaper saying the trip was “improper” and sent “a message of weakness and desperation.”
Iran dampens down prospect of Trump-Rouhani meeting
President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday told the United States to “take the first step” by lifting all sanctions against Iran, dampening down the likelihood of meeting US counterpart Donald Trump.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the prospects for such a meeting were “unimaginable” even if the United States rejoins a landmark nuclear deal with Iran.
Trump had said less than 24 hours earlier he was ready to meet with Rouhani within weeks, in a potential breakthrough reached during a G7 summit in the French seaside resort of Biarritz.
Iran’s economy has been battered by US sanctions imposed since Trump in May last year unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between the Islamic republic and world powers.
“You must retreat from all illegal, unjust and wrong sanctions against the nation of Iran,” Rouhani said.
“The key for positive change is in the hands of Washington,” he said, because Iran had already ruled out ever doing what worries the US the most — building an atomic bomb.
“This concern has already been removed” through a fatwa issued in 2003 by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he added.
“We don’t (intend to) make an atomic bomb… our military doctrine is based on conventional arms,” said Rouhani.
“So take the first step. Without this step, this lock will not be unlocked.”
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