Though he had been due in Asia for a scheduled tour to bolster support for relief from US sanctions, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif's plane made a surprise landing in Biarritz on Sunday, where the Group of Seven (G7) summit is in session.
Amid speculation over the plane's unscheduled return to France, Iran's foreign ministry has now confirmed FM Zarif has arrived in Biarritz for talks at the French foreign ministry's invitation. However, "There won't be any meeting or talks with the American delegation," the statement said.
The Iranian delegation plans to hold meetings on the sideline of the G7 summit, western diplomatic sources have also said. French President Emmanuel Macron will reportedly be involved in the sideline meetings, after he told reporters at the summit he plans to continue holding talks with Tehran in the coming weeks over Iran's nuclear program. Reports suggest Macron could press Trump for a resumption of the Iran oil waiver program.
He and Zarif discussed moving forward just days ago in Paris. It also must be remembered that Zarif is currently under US Treasury department sanctions, and further it was recently revealed that last month Zarif had rebuffed a secret invitation to meet with President Trump in the oval office, which involved the mediation of Rand Paul.
Currently, there's speculation over the possibility of Zarif or Iranian intermediaries engaging with US officials or even Trump himself on the sidelines of the summit. On Sunday Trump was asked about these rumors point blank, to which he responded, "no comment".
Meanwhile, Zarif's unexpected presence could be part of a French initiative to press Washington for the resumption of the oil waiver program, which had allowed up to eight countries to continue importing Iranian crude on a conditional basis.
French floating an initiative here at #G7Summit to resume waivers on some Iranian oil sales in return for Iran getting back in JCPOA, giving space for talks on missiles and the region. Devil in the details. They might get it past Trump, but what about Bolton, Khamenei and IRCG?— Julian Borger (@julianborger) August 25, 2019
Macron said on Sunday just as Zarif's plane touched down that G7 leaders "had a discussion yesterday on Iran and that enabled us to establish two common lines: no member of the G7 wants Iran to get a nuclear bomb and all the members of the G7 are deeply attached to stability and peace in the region," he said.
As regional tensions again begin to soar over Israel's renewed spate of attacks on Syria, and now it appears unprecedented attacks on Iraq and now Lebanon, will France and Iran make a last minute effort to press Washington toward stabilizing the situation and find common ground?