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Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a surprise visit to the G7 summit in France on August 25.

He attended side-line talks in the seaside town of Biarritz where world leaders, including President Donald Trump, have gathered.

Reports suggest the US delegation was surprised by Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visit, which comes at a time of high tension with Iran.

The Iranian official said on Twitter that he held “constructive” talks with his French counterpart and President Emmanuel Macron, adding he gave a joint briefing to German and British officials.

Mohammad Javad Zarif also met President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on August 23 on the eve of the summit.

Relations between Iran and the US have deteriorated since Washington withdrew from a 2015 deal to limit Iran’s nuclear activities in 2018.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

President Donald Trump Pulls US Out of Iran Nuclear Deal

Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron Discuss New Agreement on Iran’s Nuclear Program

Five other nations – including France – remain committed to the deal, but Iran has started to ratchet up its nuclear activity in response to the US reinstating and tightening economic sanctions against them.

President Macron has taken an active role in trying to diffuse tensions and save the accord – but Iran’s relations with the West have strained further in recent months over a series of confrontations and oil tanker seizures in and around the Gulf.

Mohammad Javad Zarif was himself singled out for US sanctions last month, with US officials accusing him of implementing “the reckless agenda” of Iran’s leader.

Reports about the circumstances of his visit on Sunday are conflicting. French officials told reporters the foreign minister was invited in agreement with the US delegation, but White House officials have suggested they were taken by surprise.

They were also conflicting comments by President Macron and President Trump during the weekend as to whether G7 leaders had agreed a joint approach to easing tensions with Tehran.

On August 25, President Trump appeared to dismiss French mediation efforts.

He said: “We’ll do our own outreach, but, you know, I can’t stop people from talking. If they want to talk, they can talk.”

Leaders from the G7 – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US – have been attending the group’s 45th summit all weekend.

A range of topics, including the nuclear deal and Brexit, have been on the talks agenda.

Talks between Iran and world powers in Geneva have failed to reach an agreement on Tehran’s nuclear programme.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told a press conference that there had been a lot of “concrete progress but some differences remain”.

Baroness Catherine Ashton said talks would resume on November 20.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he was not disappointed with the outcome, and that the talks were “something we can build on”.

Mohammad Javad Zarif said all parties were “on the same wavelength” and “there was the impetus to reach an agreement”.

Meanwhile US Secretary of State John Kerry said: “There is no question in my mind that we are closer now than we were before.

Talks between Iran and world powers in Geneva have failed to reach an agreement on Tehran's nuclear programme

Talks between Iran and world powers in Geneva have failed to reach an agreement on Tehran’s nuclear programme

The international powers are concerned that Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon – but Iran says its programme is peaceful.

A proposal that was floated would require Iran to freeze expansion of nuclear activity in return for limited relief from economic sanctions.

Delegates had earlier suggested there was “good progress”.

But diplomatic sources said France had wanted tougher terms for Iran.

Before the late-night press conference, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the three days of negotiations had ended without a deal.

“The meetings in Geneva have made it possible to move forward,” he said.

“But we have not yet managed to conclude, because there are still some questions remaining to be dealt with.”

Meanwhile, John Kerry told reporters: “We have not only narrowed differences and clarified those that remain but we made significant progress in working through the approaches to this question of how one reins in a programme and guarantees its peaceful nature.”

He added that the window for diplomacy would not stay open indefinitely.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had urged the world powers not to miss an “exceptional opportunity” to seal an agreement.

The Geneva talks involve Iran and the P5+1 (the US, Russia, Britain, France and China as permanent UN Security Council members, plus Germany).

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