Surprise Visit at G-7:Top Iran Official08/25 10:28
A top Iranian official paid an unannounced visit Sunday to the G-7 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.
BIARRITZ, France (AP) -- A top Iranian official paid an unannounced visit
Sunday to the G-7 summit and headed straight to the building where leaders of
the world's major democracies have been debating how to handle the country's
The surprise arrival of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif came
just two days after his meeting with France's president, who is the host of the
Group of Seven gathering in Biarritz.
Zarif's plane left Tehran on Sunday morning and touched down a few hours
later at the Biarritz airport, which has been closed since Friday to all
incoming traffic unrelated to the official G-7 delegations.
A senior French official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the
sensitive talks, said Zarif went directly into a meeting with French Foreign
Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, said Zarif flew to
Biarritz at the invitation of the French foreign minister. Mousavi said on
Twitter that there would be no meetings or negotiations with American officials
during Zarif's trip.
Zarif, who faces U.S. 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 U.S. from Tehran'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 and China.
Macron said the leaders agreed during a dinner the night before that the
French president could serve as a G-7 messenger to Iran. Trump denied agreeing
to anything, and Macron was forced to play down his role and acknowledge
Trump's status as "the president of the world's number one power."
The French official also said that based on Saturday night's dinner, France
considers it important to check in with Zarif to continue to bring positions
closer together and ease tensions. The official said the French are not
"mediators" but think they can contribute to de-escalation.
Asked whether the White House was aware of Zarif's visit, the French
official said, "We operate on our own terms" but noted that Macron and Trump
met for two hours Saturday and discussed Iran at length, as well as at the
The official said the Americans in Biarritz will not meet with Zarif, that
it is a Franco-Iranian meeting for the moment and that France "is working in
full transparency with the U.S. and in full transparency with European
Macron said he has no formal mandate to speak for the G-7 leaders in
delivering a message to Iran, but that he would be able to address the issue in
the context of what they agreed to during a dinner.
For several months, Macron has taken a lead role in trying to save the 2015
nuclear accord, which has been unraveling since Trump pulled the U.S. out of
the agreement. His office said the G-7 leaders agreed he should serve as a
go-between with Iran.
"I haven't discussed that," Trump said Sunday morning. He described the
dinner as "very, very good" and blamed the media for anything that implied
But it seemed from other accounts that the previous night's dinner had been
tense, with a clear divide between him and the rest of the G-7.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, greeting Macron for a morning meeting,
congratulated the French president and shook his hand.
"You did very well last night. My God that was a difficult one. You did
brilliant, you did brilliant," he said.
The G-7 leaders regrouped Sunday to focus on what they can do to boost
growth at a time of heightened uncertainty. Manufacturers around the world are
smarting from the trade dispute between the U.S. and China, which has led to
new import taxes on hundreds of billions of dollars-worth of goods. Businesses
don't know where tariffs will be imposed next.
The White House had said putting the economy on the agenda was Trump's idea,
but the G-7 has for over four decades always included a focus on the economy.
It was founded as a response to the Arab oil embargo in the 1970s and the
recession that followed.
The backdrop is particularly worrying this year, with the U.S. economy
slowing and Germany and Italy close to recession.
Meanwhile, Britain is due to leave the EU in October and there is no
agreement on how it should happen, raising the possibility of a disorderly exit
that could wreak havoc for business in Europe.
Johnson said Britain and Europe needed to prepare for that, saying the
prospect of a Brexit deal was "touch and go."
The G-7 summit includes the heads of Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Canada
and Italy as well as a representative of the 28-country EU.
In the nearby town of Bayonne, protesters demanded Macron do more to protect
French workers and the planet.
A mix of activists, some wearing yellow vests, carried portraits of the
French president as they marched Sunday in solidarity with environmental
activists who removed official portraits of Macron from town halls around
France earlier this year to protest his climate change policies.
Internationally, Macron is a vocal champion of fighting climate change, and
has challenged Trump on the issue. At home in France, however, activists accuse
him of lagging on promises to wean France from fossil fuels.