G-7 summit

Iran foreign minister makes surprise visit to G-7 venue

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's (pictured) visit comes two days after his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron. PHOTO: REUTERS

BIARRITZ (France) • Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made an unannounced visit yesterday to the Group of Seven summit and headed straight to the building where leaders of the world's major democracies have been debating how to handle the country's nuclear ambitions.

Mr Zarif jetted in on an Iranian government plane. His visit comes just two days after his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, who is the host of the Group of Seven gathering in Biarritz.

A senior French official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mr Zarif went directly into a meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Mr Zarif flew to Biarritz at the invitation of the French Foreign Minister. Mr Mousavi said on Twitter that there would be no meetings or negotiations with American officials during Mr Zarif's trip.

Mr Zarif, who faces US sanctions, had been scheduled to go to Asia as part of a tour to seek support for Iran amid the American campaign against it since President Donald Trump withdrew the US from Teheran's 2015 nuclear deal.

He arrived as fissures emerged among G-7 leaders over how to deal with Iran, as well as the threat of a global recession.

For several months, Mr Macron has taken a lead role in trying to save the 2015 nuclear accord, which has been unravelling since Mr Trump pulled the US out of the agreement. His office said the G-7 leaders agreed he should serve as a go-between with Iran, but Mr Trump disputed that.

The US President said that while he was happy for Mr Macron to reach out to Teheran to defuse tensions, he would carry on with his own initiatives.

Asked if he had signed off on a statement on Iran that Mr Macron intends to give on behalf of the G-7, Mr Trump said: "I haven't discussed this. No, I haven't."

Mr Macron appeared to backtrack on his own team's comments later, saying there was no formal mandate from the G-7 leaders to pass a message to Iran.

Highlighting just how difficult agreeing on concrete measures between allies is, Mr Macron said the leaders' views had converged on not wanting Iran to acquire a nuclear bomb and ensuring peace and security in the region.

Join ST's Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2019, with the headline Iran foreign minister makes surprise visit to G-7 venue. Subscribe