Rouhani Backs Off Meeting With Trump, Saying U.S. Must First Lift Sanctions
A day after what looked like a possible diplomatic breakthrough with the U.S., Iranian President Hassan Rouhani backed off the idea of direct talks with President Trump, saying Washington must first lift sanctions against Tehran.
At the conclusion of the G-7 Summit in France on Monday, Trump had said that the leaders could meet, "if the circumstance were correct or right." Rouhani initially seemed warm to such a meeting, remarking, "I would not miss it."
However, by Tuesday, Rouhani's initial enthusiasm appeared to have ebbed. Unless the U.S. ended economic sanctions on Iran, he said, any such meeting between the two leaders would be just a photo op and "that is not possible."
The continued stalemate likely comes as a disappointment to French President Emmanuel Macron, who has worked overtime trying to bring Trump and Rouhani to the table, saying Monday that he hoped to see such a meeting in "coming weeks."
At the G-7 held in the southwestern coastal city of Biarritz, Macron invited Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and other Iranian diplomats to the summit's venue as he employed a form of shuttle diplomacy between them and Trump to try to work out the details of a high-level face-to-face, according to The Associated Press.
The two sides have not had diplomatic relations since 1979. Trump last year unilaterally withdrew from an Obama-era international agreement that gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.
In recent months, Tehran has announced that it would cross limits imposed by the multi-national pact on the size and potency of its nuclear stockpile.
Tehran has also been blamed for attacks on commercial tankers in and around the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway through which much of the world's oil transits.
In July after the U.K. seized an Iranian tanker thought to be carrying fuel to Syria in violation of international sanctions, Iran seized a British-flagged tanker, the Stena Impero.
The Iranian vessel was released earlier this month, but the British vessel is still being held.