US President Donald Trump said on Monday he had given his consent to the Iranian diplomat’s unannounced presence on the sidelines of a G7 summit, denying on Monday that he was surprised or angry and insisted on “unity” with other leaders.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s invitation to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was a bold gamble that could guarantee a breakthrough in global tensions over Iran’s nuclear program. Macron, who is hosting the G7 meeting in the coastal resort of Biarritz, and other G7 leaders opposed Trump’s decision last year to withdraw the United States from a nuclear deal with Iran and impose new sanctions. They have been trying to salvage the hard-negotiated treaty ever since.
Trump did not say whether any US officials had met Zarif for a short while in Biarritz on Sunday. Some US sanctions are aimed at Zarif directly.
Tensions over Iran, Russia, the US trade war with China and the faltering global economy dominated the three-day summit, which is due to end with a joint press conference for both Trump and Macron on Monday. The countries are trying to come up with an initiative to fight the unprecedented fires in the Amazon, as well as a long-term global initiative to protect the rainforest there and possibly also in Africa.
The French president’s announcement came after a late-morning session on climate that Trump missed. He and the other G7 leaders, who also include Germany, Britain, Canada, Italy and Japan, avoided their differences with Trump, who is known for his doubts about international cooperation. Along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump claimed “great unity” among leaders on the subject of Iran.
“We’ve come to a conclusion, more or less. But the biggest part of the conclusion: They can’t have nuclear weapons,” he said.
It was unclear when Macron invited Zarif or when he told other leaders that Iran’s foreign minister was on his way to the meeting. Trump said that he and Macron spoke directly. The French president’s office said that everything ended after a meeting that lasted for several hours.
” I said if you want to do that, that’s OK,” Trump said.
In a televised speech, Iranian President Rouhani also appeared on the defensive, protecting his foreign minister from criticism by militants who refused negotiations until the sanctions were lifted. Iran’s economy has fallen since the United States imposed new sanctions.
“If I knew that going to a meeting and visiting a person would help my country’s development and resolve the problems of the people, I would not miss it,” Rouhani said. “Even if the odds of success are not 90% but are 20 or 10%, we must move ahead with it. We should not miss opportunities.”
Merkel said one of the achievements of the G7 summit was to agree to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons “by political means.”, without listing any details.
Macron said the summit would end without a final joint statement, hoping to avoid last year’s disastrous meeting in Canada when Trump refused to sign it shortly after he left and tweeted criticism of the host.
But officials were expecting more limited agreements on issues such as the harmonization of taxes on digital giants of technology giants, which Trump said was approaching the deal after threats of retaliatory tariffs on French wine.