Iranian officials have sharply rebuffed U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer to meet with his Iranian counterpart to discuss ways of improving ties between the two countries, saying such talks would have "no value" and be a "humiliation."
Trump said on July 30 he would be willing to meet President Hassan Rohani with "no preconditions," "anytime," even as U.S. and Iranian officials have been escalating their rhetoric following Washington’s withdrawal in May from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on July 31 that Trump’s offer was at odds with his actions, as Washington has imposed sanctions on Iran and put pressure on other countries to avoid business with the Islamic republic.
"Sanctions and pressures are the exact opposite of dialogue," ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by the semiofficial Fars news agency.
"How can Trump prove to the Iranian nation that his comments of last night reflect a true intention for negotiation and have not been expressed for populist gains?" he added.
The statement echoed earlier comments from Kamal Kharazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council of Foreign Relations, as saying there was "no value in Trump’s proposal" given Iran’s "bad experiences in negotiations with America" and "U.S. officials’ violations of their commitments."
Fars also quoted Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli as saying the United States "is not trustworthy."
"How can we trust this country when it withdraws unilaterally from the nuclear deal?" he asked.
The United States has also vowed to reimpose sanctions against Iran that were lifted as part of the nuclear agreement until Tehran changes its regional policies.
"I’d meet with anybody. I believe in meetings," Trump said at the White House during a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Trump added that he believes in "speaking to other people, especially when you’re talking about potentials of war and death and famine and lots of other things."
Asked whether he would set any preconditions for the meeting, Trump said: "No preconditions, no. If they want to meet, I’ll meet anytime they want," adding that it would be "good for the country, good for them, good for us, and good for the world."
Such a meeting would be the first between U.S. and Iranian leaders since before the 1979 revolution that toppled the shah, a U.S. ally.
Hamid Aboutalebi, a senior adviser to Rohani, tweeted on July 31 that "respecting the Iranian nation’s rights, reducing hostilities, and returning to the nuclear deal" would pave the way for talks.
Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted deputy parliament speaker Ali Motahari as saying that the U.S. pullout from the nuclear accord meant that "negotiation with the Americans would be a humiliation now."
"If Trump had not withdrawn from the nuclear deal and had not imposed sanctions on Iran, there would be no problem with negotiations with America," Motahari added.
Iran’s leaders had previously rejected suggestions from Trump that the two countries negotiate a new nuclear deal to replace Iran’s 2015 agreement with six world powers.
"We’re ready to make a real deal, not the deal that was done by the previous administration, which was a disaster," Trump said last week.
Trump has consistently opposed the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear program. His administration argues the agreement was too generous to Iran and that it enabled it to pursue a more assertive regional policy.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered his own interpretation of Trump’s latest comments on Iran, setting out three steps Iran must take before talks take place.
"The president wants to meet with folks to solve problems if the Iranians demonstrate a commitment to making fundamental changes in how they treat their own people, reduce their maligned behavior, can agree that it’s worthwhile to enter into a nuclear agreement that actually prevents proliferation," Pompeo told the CNBC television channel.
Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, insisted that the United States would not be lifting any sanctions or reestablishing diplomatic and commercial relations until "there are tangible, demonstrated, and sustained shifts in Tehran’s policies."
"The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course," Marquis said.
In suggesting talks with Iran, Trump has maintained that it would help Tehran cope with what he describes as the "pain" from deepening economic woes as the United States moves to reimpose economic sanctions against Iran.
The looming sanctions, some of which will go into effect within days, have helped trigger a steep fall in the Iranian rial, with the currency plummeting to a new record low of 122,000 to the dollar in black-market trading on July 30.
The rapid decline in the value of the currency sparked street protests in Tehran last month.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and BBC
Source: Radio Free Europe