US President Donald Trump has said it was “too soon” for him to meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who made a surprise visit to the G7 meeting in France following an invitation by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Macron has been trying to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal between the US, Europe, Iran and Russia after Trump pulled out of the deal last year. But Trump told reporters at the G7 meeting on Monday that he was not surprised at France inviting Zarif.
“I knew he was coming,” Trump said of the visit. “I knew everything he [Macron] was doing and I approved everything he was doing,” Trump said, adding the French president “asked for my approval”.
The US president did say, however, he did not think the time was right yet for him to sit with Zarif.
“It’s too soon to meet, I didn’t want to,” Trump said, adding that he wants to see a “strong Iran” and that he was not looking for regime change in the country.
Trump has said he wants to force Iran into new talks that would include its ballistic missile programme and support for regional armed groups. But Iran has rejected that, saying Washington could not be trusted.
A year after the US exit from the nuclear deal, Tehran began scaling back some of its commitments under the accord.
In July, Washington imposed sanctions on Zarif, blocking any property or interest he had in the US.
US officials said the censure was meant to send a “clear message” to Iran as tensions further escalated over alleged Iranian aggressions in the Strait of Hormuz, a significant trade route in the Gulf.
Iran’s active diplomacy in pursuit of constructive engagement continues.
Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying. pic.twitter.com/oXdACvt20T
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) August 25, 2019
Following Zarif’s visit to the G7 on Sunday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran was open to dialogue even though talks with Western countries would have a slim chance of success.
“We should do our job and take action,” Rouhani told a crowd in Tehran.
“Even if the odds of success are not 90 percent but are 20 or 10 percent, we must move ahead with it. We should not miss opportunities.”
Zarif sent out a tweet on Sunday, saying Iran “was in pursuit of constructive engagement”.
“Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying,” he said.
Iran’s Zarif: ‘We are not seeking war’ | Talk to Al Jazeera
China willing to reopen negotiations
Trump also responded to growing fears a trade war between the United States and China will lead to a global economic recession.
When asked by reporters, Trump said Chinese officials called American negotiators on Sunday in the hopes of restarting conversation to solve the dispute.
“They mean business, they want to be able to make a deal. They’ve lost three million jobs and it’s why President Xi is a great leader. It’s going to be great for China, it’s going to be great for the US, it’s going to be great for the rest of the world,” Trump said.
The US and China have been entangled in a trade dispute, with both countries levying tariffs on each other’s goods, leading to China’s currency hitting an eleven year low.
Trump’s comments come shortly after China’s top trade negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, said he opposed an escalation of the trade war.
Al Jazeera and news agencies