Iranian Foreign Minister's Plane Lands at G-7 Summit in Surprise Visit

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Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif arrives for a meeting with Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Oslo, August 22, 2019.
Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif arrives for a meeting with Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Oslo, August 22, 2019. Credit: AFP

A senior French official says France invited Iran's foreign minister to the venue of the G-7 summit to try to ease tensions over its nuclear program.

The official said the decision to invite Jawad Zarif on Sunday to the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, came after the G-7 leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump, gathered for dinner Saturday night.

Asked whether the White House was aware of the visit, the French official said "we operate on our own terms" but noted that Macron and Trump met for two hours yesterday and discussed Iran at length, as well as at the group dinner with other leaders.

>> Read more: Economic storm clouds hover over Trump at G-7 summit

The French official, who was not authorized to be named publicly, said that France considers it important to check in with Zarif to continue to bring positions closer together and de-escalate tensions.

The official said the Americans in Biarritz will not meet with Zarif, and that France "is working in full transparency with the U.S. and in full transparency with European partners."

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed that the Islamic Republic's top diplomat has landed at G-7 leaders' summit, though he won't be negotiating nor meeting with U.S. officials while there.

Earlier, French President Emmanuel Macron denied that the G-7 had given him a "mandate" to hold talks with Iran on behalf of the group of the world's top democratic economies.

"The G-7 is an informal club, there's no such thing as a formal mandate that somebody gives someone else in the G-7," he said.

Instead, Macron said, he would be pursuing discussions with the Islamic Republic "in the name of France but ... in light of yesterday's discussions" at the summit of Western powers and Japan.

European leaders have struggled to calm a deepening confrontation between Iran and the United States since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled his country out of Iran's internationally brokered 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on the Iranian economy.

Earlier on Sunday at the G-7 summit, Trump appeared to brush aside French efforts to mediate with Iran, saying that while he was happy for Paris to reach out to Tehran to defuse tensions he would carry on with his own initiatives.

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