Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday attended the G7 summit in Biarritz, southwestern France to break a diplomatic deadlock over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme.
Zarif’s presence had not been announced and represented a gamble by French host Emmanuel Macron who is seeking to soothe spiralling tensions between Iran and the United States.
The Iranian top diplomat did not hold talks with US President Donald Trump in the French surf town, French diplomats said, but the presence of the two men in the same place sparked hopes of a detente.
“Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying,” the US-educated Zarif wrote on Twitter after meeting Macron and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian as well as British and German officials.
French officials said Trump had been aware of the arrival and suggested that it had been discussed during an impromptu two-hour lunch with Macron on a hotel terrace on Saturday.
“We work with full transparency with the Americans,” one diplomat told reporters on condition of anonymity.
Robert Malley, head of the International Crisis Group, a think-tank, said that it was a sign that Trump had given “some positive response” to Macron’s proposals for a deal.
“Maybe President Trump told President Macron privately that he was open to some of these ideas,” he told AFP.
“The big caveat, the elephant in the room, is that there is considerable room between what President Trump says and what he thinks one day, and what he says and thinks the next,” he added.
Also speaking in Biarritz, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that Trump had in the past said that if Iran “wants to sit down and negotiate he will not set preconditions.”
French officials said the discussions had been “positive” and Zarif left the beach-side gathering in the evening.