Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif flew in for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and the French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, away from the rest of the Group of 7 world leaders.

By Ian Horswill

Posted on August 26, 2019

US President Donald Trump has been blindsided by France secretly inviting the Iran foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the Group of Seven summit in France.

Trump thought he was the star of the important forum of leaders from the world’s major countries – US, Canada, France, Germany, UK, Italy and Japan – being held in the coastal resort of Biarritz.

However, the host nation invited Zarif to the meeting.

Zarif went into a three-and-a-half-hour meeting with French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Reuters news agency reported. He spent half an hour with French President Emmanuel Macron.

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes the Iran foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“Iran’s active diplomacy in pursuit of constructive engagement continues,” Zarif said in a Twitter post afterwards. “Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying.

“Despite US efforts to destroy diplomacy, met with French President Emmanuel Macron and Le Drian.”

A White House official said Trump had not been informed of Zarif’s visit in advance. However, a French diplomatic source said Macron informed Trump of the Iranian foreign minister’s visit when the two presidents had lunch on Saturday. Macron then told the other leaders during dinner on Saturday night.

“There was a very substantial conversation among the G7 leaders,” the source told The Telegraph, adding that the French and Iranian foreign ministers were also discussing “regional issues and Iran’s missile programme”.

“We are working in total transparency with our US partners,” he said.

The US and Iran are at loggerheads, at one point on the brink of war. European leaders have struggled to calm the deepening confrontation between Iran and the US.

Oil tanker, Middle East, Photo: Twitter

Trump withdrew the US from an internationally brokered deal that offered Iran relief from global sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. After pulling out, Trump reimposed further sanctions on Iran, including on its oil and banking sectors.

In July, UK forces seized an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar claiming it was violating sanctions on Syria. Iran, who denied the ship was bound for Syria but would not disclose its destination, then seized a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz for alleged marine violations.

On June 13, two oil tankers, Japanese Kokuka Courageous and Norwegian Front Altair, were attacked near the Strait of Hormuz while in the Gulf of Oman, sustaining fire damage. The US blamed Iran and its Revolutionary Guard Corps for the attacks. Saudi Arabia and the UK backed the US claim.

A month earlier four commercial ships – two Saudi Arabian registered oil tankers, a Norwegian registered oil tanker, and an Emirati registered bunkering ship – were damaged in the Gulf of Oman in UAE waters. The UAE said it was acts of sabotage and the US accused the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of being “directly responsible” for the attacks, The CEO Magazine reported.