Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday that Iran will not talk to the United States until all sanctions against the Gulf country are lifted, just one day after Donald Trump said he would definitely meet with Iran.
Speaking live on state TV Rouhani said: “First the U.S. should act by lifting all illegal, unjust and unfair sanctions imposed on Iran. Washington has the key for positive change ... So take the first step ... Without this step, this lock will not be unlocked.”
Trump said Monday at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, that he would meet Rouhani to end the confrontation that began after the US pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal last year, citing Iranian noncompliance, but only under the right circumstances. He refused to lift the sanctions, however.
Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary, said that a meeting with Rouhani is not advisable right now, calling the prospect “unsettling” and saying he doesn’t trust Iran. However, he did say that Trump has put pressure on Iran.
He said: "He has sent them the message that they can choose between their economy and their people, and terrorism and weapons of mass destruction... My fear is Iran would lie and say whatever they need to say to President Trump if they think we'd get them something."
In May 2018, Trump pulled out of the deal and imposed sanctions on Iran that forced companies around the world to choose between business with Iran and access to the US financial markets. Unsurprisingly, most chose the US.
This was just the start of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign to force Iran into talks over its ballistic missile program and support for proxy forces around the Middle East. Iran has refused these talks.
Earlier this year, Iran began scaling back its commitments to the nuclear deal unless the sanctions are lifted, something the US called “nuclear blackmail”, by increasing its amount and purity of enriched uranium. Rouhani said this would continue unless Iran's demands were met, although he continued to deny seeking nuclear weapons, calling his program peaceful. One might argue that if it were peaceful, then it would be odd for Rouhani to use its development as a bargaining chip.
European signatories to the nuclear deal, i.e. France, the UK, and Germany, have tried to save the deal through a special financial mechanism, but French President Emmanuel Macron took the biggest step by unexpectedly inviting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the G7 meeting on Sunday.
Trump and Rouhani are both set to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September, but any meeting between the two would first have to be approved by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters.