Editorial Notes

Iranian Foreign Minister's surprise visit to G-7 meeting in Biarritz raised hopes of detente: The Statesman

Immediately on arrival, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (centre) conveyed a blunt message to America, saying that he will not be holding talks with the US delegation during his sudden trip.
Immediately on arrival, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (centre) conveyed a blunt message to America, saying that he will not be holding talks with the US delegation during his sudden trip.PHOTO: REUTERS

In its editorial, the paper says that it is likely that Mr Mohammad Javad Zarif intends to ratchet up European pressure on the US against the crippling sanctions on the Iranian economy.

NEW DELHI (THE STATESMAN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The US administration, increasingly on a collision course with Iran, was caught with its pants down at the G7 summit in the French seaside resort of Biarritz on Sunday when the Iranian foreign minister, Mr Mohammad Javad Zarif, landed in France on a surprise visit to the gathering of the great and the good.

Further comment must await the upshot of the summit which, besides the US-Iran tension, will have to countenance a welter of contentious issues.

Immediately on arrival, Mr Zarif conveyed a blunt message to America, saying that he will not be holding talks with the US delegation during his sudden trip.

The visit must have been not in the least carefully calibrated because in Europe's perception, Tehran has abided by the nuclear control agreement, concluded by former US President Barack Obama in 2015 - a landmark deal that has been binned by US President Donald Trump.

The refusal to accept the deal, concluded by his more rational predecessor, has been followed by the tightening of sanctions.

What could the underpinning of Zarif's trip be? Mum's the word from the government in Tehran. It is likely that he intends to ratchet up the European pressure on the US against the crippling sanctions.

There is little doubt that he may well be seeking to reinforce Western Europe's sympathy for the moderate Hassan Rouhani regime in Iran.

The visit comes at a time when western policy towards Iran has been severely contentious following President Trump's decision to back out of the internationally brokered Iran nuclear deal.

Initiated by the Obama administration in 2015, it restricted Iran's nuclear capabilities in exchange for the easing of sanctions. Neither objective has been achieved. China, along with Russia, Britain and Germany remains a part of the accord.

Mr Trump, whose decision had triggered and escalated tensions with Iran, remains ever so adamant at the Biarritz summit.

 
 

Indeed, he has underplayed the importance of the Iranian foreign minister's visit.

When asked if he signed off on French President, Emannuel Macron's comment that all the countries had agreed to give a common statement to Iran, Trump responded, "No, I haven't. We'll do our own outreach, but, you know, I can't stop people from talking. If they want to talk, they can talk."

Despite efforts by the French President and the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, the Trump administration has remained adamant in refusing to de-escalate the situation.

It is uncertain what will be discussed between Zarif and the French foreign minister in Biarritz, but the Iranian minister's tweet on Friday is significant - "Despite US efforts to destroy diplomacy, I met with the French President. Multilateralism must be preserved".

It is a dramatic attempt to break the diplomatic deadlock over Iran's nuclear programme. For all the mutual animosity, the presence of Donald Trump and Javad Zarif in Biarritz has raised faint hopes of a detente.

The Statesman is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media entities.