Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a surprise visit to the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, on Aug. 25. The trip took place after lobbying by French President Emmanuel Macron to bring the United States and Iran closer to holding talks and reducing tensions in the Persian Gulf. While Zarif held talks with officials from the United Kingdom, Germany and France, he did not meet with US officials or President Donald Trump.
After the trip Zarif tweeted, “Iran’s active diplomacy in pursuit of constructive engagement continues,” adding, “Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying.” In a not-so-subtle message to the G-7 countries, Zarif’s next tweet was about his trip to China, where he will present a “25-year road map” on pursuing common interests.
The United States and Iran once again headed toward a collision after the Americans exited the nuclear accord that limited Iran’s nuclear capabilities in exchange for sanctions relief. Since the US exit, Iran has gradually reduced its commitments under the deal.
After conservatives attacked Zarif’s trip, President Hassan Rouhani defended the move and said that he is not opposed to meeting with anyone in order to resolve the country’s challenges. “If I knew that attending a session or meeting someone would solve the people’s problems, I would not delay,” Rouhani said during a speech today. “If there is a chance of success of not even 90%, but say 10 or 20%, we have to try and go forward and not give up opportunities.”
Kayhan, whose editor is chosen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reported on Zarif’s attendance at the G-7: “This misplaced act took place with the thought of an opening but will definitely not have a result other than to increase arrogance and pressure.” The article addressed Zarif’s previous trip to France to set up the G-7 trip with: “That the highest official from the Foreign Ministry, within a short time from his previous trip to Paris, rushed back to the country again sends a message of weakness and desperation.”
Gholam Hossein Gheyb Parvar, a former Basij commander and current adviser to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said of Zarif’s trip, “God forbid this back and forth would be out of desperation or lack of self-esteem. God forbid the knees of our officials would shake.”
While there are no details available on what Macron is attempting to mediate between Iran and the United States, it's likely to include economic incentives for Iran in the form of sanctions relief and Iran returning to its commitments under the nuclear deal. Conservative Jahan News compiled a list of speculations about the negotiations taking place, including Iran making permanent changes to its nuclear program, changing its regional policies and making changes to its missile program, all proposals the article referred to as “red lines.”
The criticism stems from a belief that any effort to negotiate with Western countries is a mistake. A conservative analyst wrote for Jahan that instead of traveling to Europe and the United States to “patch up the nuclear deal,” Zarif could have traveled to China, Russia or neighboring countries. The analyst wrote that such trips and efforts could have helped evade the sanctions such that there would be “no impact on the national economy.”
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