Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif arrives in Biarritz in surprise visit to G7 leaders summit

Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif arrives in Biarritz in surprise visit to G7 leaders summitJavad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, unexpectedly flew into Biarritz on Sunday in a dramatic twist to a G7 leaders summit that is already riven by divisions over Russia, China and trade.  Mr Zarif, who went straight into talks with French officials after his surprise arrival on an Iranian government Airbus, showed up as French President Emmanuel Macron attempted a high-risk diplomatic gambit to defuse a confrontation that has brought Iran and the United States to the brink of war.  His presence caused immediate confusion in diplomatic circles, with a White House official saying that Donald Trump, who dined with other G7 leaders in Biarritz on Saturday night, was not informed in advance. Mr Trump's administration placed Mr Zarif under sanctions last month.  But a French diplomatic source said Mr Macron informed Mr Trump of the Iranian foreign minister’s visit when the two presidents had lunch on Saturday. Mr Macron then told the other leaders during dinner on Saturday night. “There was a very substantial conversation among the G7 leaders,” the source said.  The source added that the French and Iranian foreign ministers were also discussing “regional issues and Iran’s missile programme”. “We are working in total transparency with our US partners,” he said. Angela Merkel said she was only informed shortly before Mr Zarif arrived.  A White House official said Donald Trump was not told that Emmanuel Macron had invited Javad Zarif Credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via REUTERS A highly-placed French political source told the Telegraph: “That [the foreign ministers’ meeting] doesn’t mean that Mr Trump is actively supporting the talks, only that he is allowing them to happen. If there are advances, he can welcome them and perhaps share the credit. If nothing comes of it, he won’t have to disown it because it was a French initiative. If it does succeed in reducing tension, it will be a huge diplomatic coup for Mr Macron.”   Earlier the French president played down briefings by his aides that the G7 leaders had mandated him to lead talks with Iran, which was quickly denied by Mr Trump who said the idea had not been discussed. Mr Macron said there was no such thing as a “G7 mandate” as the group is a forum for discussion rather than a formal structure. The Iranian foreign ministry said Mr Zarif had flown in for talks on saving the 2015 nuclear deal, but denied that Iran's missile programme was up for discussion. It said no talks with Mr Trump or the US delegation are planned. Mr Macron is hosting Mr Trump, Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, and Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s caretaker prime minister, at the 45th G7 summit.  Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets U.S. President Donald Trump for bilateral talks during the G7 summit  Credit: Stefan Rousseau/Pool via REUTERS The meeting has exposed deep rifts over everything from the fires in the Amazon rain forest to Mr Trump’s trade war with China, and Mr Macron has warned that it will likely be the first summit in the Group’s 45 year history to end without a joint communique. There were reportedly lively discussions at Saturday night’s dinner of local Basque cuisine when European leaders including Mr Johnson pushed back at Mr Trump's suggestion that Russian president Vladimir Putin, who was suspended from the G7 after annexing Crimea in 2014, should be readmitted to the forum. Mr Trump and Mr Macron have also clashed over a proposed French "digital tax" which would hit US tech giants like Google and Amazon. Mr Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on French wine in retaliation.  Mr Trump sought to play down reports of division on Sunday, saying meetings so far have been “very good”. “Before I arrived in France, the Fake and Disgusting News was saying that relations with the 6 others countries in the G-7 are very tense, and that the two days of meetings will be a disaster,” Mr Trump tweeted.  An Iranian government plane is seen on the tarmac at Biarritz airport in Anglet on Sunday   Credit: REUTERS/Regis Duvignau “Well, we are having very good meetings, the Leaders are getting along very well, and our Country, economically, is doing great — the talk of the world!” Tensions between the US and Iran have spiralled since Mr Trump last year withdrew from a deal that offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear programme. Since then the US has pursued a policy of “maximum pressure” in the hope that economic hardship will force the regime in Tehran to accept a more restrictive deal and end its support for armed groups like Hizbollah. The confrontation has caused tension with European allies including Britain which still support the 2015 nuclear deal.  Iran continues to hold the Stena Impero, a British flagged tanker that it seized in the Gulf in apparent retaliation for the arrest by Royal Marines of an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar in July.  Gibraltar released the Adrian Darya 1, formerly the Grace 1, on August 18, despite a US legal bid to impound it.  The Royal Navy sent a third warship to the provide maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday.  HMS Defender, a type 45 destroyer, will join the type 23 frigates HMS Kent and HMS Montrose.



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