U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday “there’s a really good chance” he would meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in the coming weeks to try to negotiate a new deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear weapons program to replace the 2015 international deal that Trump withdrew from last year.
Trump, speaking at the end of the G-7 summit of top world leaders in France, said, “I think Iran is going to want to meet.”
The U.S. leader said the economic sanctions he reimposed on Iran a year ago “are absolutely hurting them” as Trump has sought to sharply limit Iran’s international oil exports.
But Trump predicated any meeting with Rouhani on the condition that Iran not create more overseas tensions with military advances and attacks. He said a new deal would have to ban Iranian nuclear weapons and ballistic missile testing and cover a longer period than the 10-year time frame dictated by the 2015 accord.
Trump added, “I have good feelings about Iran…incredible people.” But he said it was too soon to meet over the weekend with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was a surprise visitor at the G-7 summit in the Atlantic coastal town of Biarritz, at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron.
The French leader has been trying to broker U.S.-Iran peace talks. Macron told a joint news conference with Trump that he has had conversations with Rouhani and that the Iranian leader is willing to meet with Trump.
Macron said he had reached the “very cautious” conclusion that Washington and Tehran could reach an agreement if Trump and Rouhani meet.
Macron said France “will play a role” in the U.S.-Iran talks if they occur, along with the other signatories to the 2015 accord Trump pulled out of — Britain, Germany, the European Union, China and Russia.
Trump said Zarif’s visit to Biarritz was not a surprise to him.
Trump said he was in contact with Macron and that, “I knew everything he was doing and approved whatever he was doing.”
Macron had met with Zarif on Friday in Paris before the G-7 summit opened, but Macron invited him back to the site of the summit after tense exchanges among the world leaders about Iran at their Saturday night dinner.
Iran and the United States have been in a state of heightened strained relations since Trump withdrew last year from the international agreement that restrained Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Trump then added more sanctions, particularly targeting Iran’s key oil sector, that have hobbled the country’s economy.
Trump said Monday he is not seeking “regime change” in Iran, but wants the country to “stop terrorism.”
“I think they’re going to change. I really do. I believe they have a chance to be a very special nation,” Trump said.
Macron had lunch with Trump Saturday, and, according to French sources, outlined his plan to ease the West’s tensions with Iran. The French leader is calling for allowing Iran to export its oil for a short time, fully implement the 2015 agreement, reduce conflict in the Gulf region and open new talks.
Macron on Monday said Iran would need new funding to help stabilize its economy. Trump said that would not include outright cash grants but rather letters of credit that “would be paid back very quickly.”