Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is under US sanctions, flew to the southwest French town of Biarritz where the group of Seven leaders are meeting this weekend. He held more than three hours of talks, including with Mr Macron, before heading back to Tehran. Before he arrived, he tweeted: “Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying.”
Mr Macron ramped up efforts to ease tensions between Tehran and Washington, but this move was said to “surprise” the White House as they did not know Javad Zarif would be attending.
But France told its G7 partners of the Iranian foreign minister’s surprise visit for side talks at a summit as soon as it was possible, a French official said this evening.
An Elysee official told Reuters: “It was all organised at very short notice.
“It all happened within a small window.
Donald Trump and Macron looked tense at the G7 family photo (Image: REUTERS)
Trump was said to be surprised by Macron’s plan to invite Mr Zarif (Image: REUTERS)
“Other countries were informed as soon as possible.
“It all happened in a matter of hours.”
European leaders have struggled to ease tensions between Iran and the United States since Mr Trump pulled Washington out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on the Iranian economy.
The nuclear deal between Iran and major powers aimed to curb Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of many international sanctions on Tehran.
The world leaders posed for a family photo after a long day of talks at G7 (Image: REUTERS)
Since pulling Washington out of the deal last year, Mr Trump has pushed a maximum pressure policy to try to force Iran into a new negotiation that would include its ballistic missile
programme and regional activities.
While Mr Trump’s European allies also want new talks with Iran, they believe the nuclear deal must stay in place.
Mr Macron, who has taken the lead in Europe in trying to salvage the agreement and avert a deeper crisis in the Middle East, had already met Zarif in Paris on Friday.
They discussed proposals to de-escalate tensions between Washington and Tehran, including easing some US sanctions or providing Iran with an economic compensation mechanism to make up for oil revenues lost under the sanctions.
Donald Trump also embraced German Chancellor Angela Merkel as they posed for photos (Image: REUTERS)
European leaders have been attempting to ease tensions between Iran and the US (Image: REUTERS)
But despite Mr Macron spending two hours with Trump over lunch on Saturday and all seven leaders discussing Iran at length in the evening, it did not seem that he had budged on easing oil sanctions.
A European diplomat familiar with the discussions said the leaders had failed at the dinner to persuade Mr Trump.
Earlier on Sunday, Mr Trump appeared to brush aside French efforts to mediate with Iran, saying that while he was happy for Mr Macron to reach out to Tehran to defuse tensions, the United States would carry on with its own initiatives.
A White House official added no US officials met with Mr Zarif during the visit.
The G7 talks will continue on Monday (Image: EXPRESS)
US authorities earlier this month placed Zarif under US sanctions.
A senior Iranian official had told Reuters: “Zarif will convey the Iranian leadership’s response to French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal aimed at saving Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal.”
But it may take some time to ease tensions, as two Iranian officials and one diplomat told Reuters on Sunday that Iran wants to export a minimum of 700,000 barrels per day of its oil and ideally up to 1.5 million bpd if the West wants to negotiate with Tehran to save the nuclear deal.
One of the Iranian officials also said Iran’s ballistic missile programme was not open for negotiation.
Mr Trump replied when asked about Mr Macron’s mediation efforts: “We’ll do our own outreach, but, you know, I can’t stop people from talking. If they want to talk, they can talk.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif was pictured leaving the G7 summit this evening (Image: REUTERS)
Meanwhile, Mr Trump heaped praise on Prime Minister Boris Johnson at G7 today.
He said Mr Johnson was “the right man” to deliver Brexit.
The two leaders held their first bilateral meeting at the G7 summit in France.
Mr Trump also said the two countries were having “very good” trade talks.