Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sits for an interview with Reuters in New York, New York, U.S. April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sits for an interview with Reuters in New York, New York, U.S. April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Iran’s FM was invited to meet Trump in the Oval Office - US magazine

By: MENA
Sat, Aug. 3, 2019
WASHINGTON, Aug 3 (MENA) - Last month, amid a rapid-fire escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, received an unexpected invitation to meet President Donald Trump in the Oval Office, The New Yorker magazine said.

The diplomatic overture was made by Senator Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican, during a meeting with Zarif in New York on July 15th, according to American and Iranian sources and a well-informed diplomat.

With President Trump’s blessing, Paul had been working on the idea for several weeks, in consultation with the White House and the State Department. An intermediary had reached out to the Iranians on Paul’s behalf three weeks before Zarif was due in New York for meetings at the United Nations.

In May and June, the United States accused Tehran of sabotaging six oil tankers just beyond the strategic Strait of Hormuz. On June 20th, Iran shot down one of America’s most sophisticated drones, claiming that it was flying over Iranian airspace. Trump considered military retaliation, but called it off at the last minute, because of projected casualties, according to the US magazine.

Paul’s mission was to break through the messy layers of conflict and launch a direct diplomatic channel, at the highest level. The overture was a miniature version of Trump’s tactic in circumventing traditional diplomacy by dealing directly with the North Korean leadership.

During an hour-long conversation, Zarif offered Paul ideas about how to end the nuclear impasse and address Trump’s concerns. He later outlined some of them to our group of journalists and subsequently in more detail to me, said Robin Wright, the article writer.

Zarif told Paul that the decision to meet Trump in the Oval Office was not his to make; he would have to consult with Tehran. He expressed concern that any meeting might end up as little more than a photo op, without substance.

After his meeting with Paul, Zarif relayed the overture to Iran’s leaders. They did not approve a meeting—at this time. Rouhani is due to attend the UN General Assembly next month.
 
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