U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters on Monday that he is amenable to the idea of meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani.
At a press conference alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, President Trump said, “If the circumstances were right, I would certainly agree with” meeting with President Rouhani.” In the meantime, they have to be good players,” Trump added.
The French president, who has worked to salvage the nuclear deal made between world powers and Iran in 2015, had said previously that he hoped that the American and Iranian leaders could meet in the coming weeks. Over the weekend, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a surprise appearance at the G-7 summit, being held in France, on an invitation from the French government.
Should it take place, the meeting between Presidents Trump and Rouhani would be their first. It is not clear whether the Iranian side will agree to a meeting.
Relations between Washington and Tehran – typically cold, though with a brief warming under President Trump’s predecessor – have deteriorated in the last few years. Former U.S. President Barack Obama reached an agreement with Iran in 2015 that aimed to limit Iran’s capability to produce a nuclear weapon while offering Iran’s economy relief from damaging international pressure. Upon taking office, President Trump left the nuclear accord over concerns that the deal did not go far enough toward preventing Iran from producing a weapon.
Tehran denies it intends to produce a nuclear weapon with its nuclear program, which it says is for civilian purposes. International nuclear watchdog IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) has said that Iran had an active interest in producing nuclear weapons up to 2003.
The U.S. and Iran narrowly avoided a direct military confrontation earlier this year. After Iran shot down an American reconnaissance drone that it said entered Iranian airspace, President Trump ordered and then canceled retaliatory military strikes. While the situation has remained tense, IHS Jane’s reported that Iran appears to have recently redeployed its S-300PMU-2 surface-to-air missile systems away from the coast, in a possible indicator that the country views the risk of military conflict to have lessened from earlier in the summer.
President Trump, at the press conference, said, “I think Iran wants to get this situation straightened out. Now is that based on fact or based on gut? It’s based on gut.” Both Washington and Tehran have stated an interest in holding new negotiations, though Washington seeks to hold the dialogue without preconditions, while Iran has sought the reduction of U.S. economic sanctions as a precursor to a new round of nuclear talks.