United States President Donald Trump said on Monday he would be willing to meet Iran’s president without preconditions to discuss how to improve ties after he pulled the US out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, saying, “If they want to meet, we’ll meet.”
Asked at a White House news conference whether he was willing to meet Hassan Rouhani, Mr Trump said: "I'd meet with anybody. I believe in meetings," adding this was especially the case when there was the possibility of war.
His remarks represented a marked softening in rhetoric from a week ago, when he lashed out at Mr Rouhani in a tweet, saying “Never, ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.”
Shortly before that July 22 tweet, Mr Rouhani had addressed Mr Trump in a speech, saying that hostile US policies could lead to “the mother of all wars”.
On Monday, speaking at a news conference with visiting Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Mr Trump said: “I would certainly meet with Iran if they wanted to meet. I don’t know that they’re ready yet. I ended the Iran deal. It was a ridiculous deal. I do believe that they will probably end up wanting to meet and I’m ready to meet any time that they want to.”
Mr Trump said he had “no preconditions” for a meeting with the Iranians, adding: “If they want to meet, I’ll meet.”
“If we could work something out that’s meaningful, not the waste of paper that the other deal was, I would certainly be willing to meet.” He said this would be good for the US, Iran and the world.
Hours before Mr Trump's statement, Tehran ruled out talks with Washington.
“With current America and these policies, there will definitely not be the possibility of dialogue and engagement, and the United States has shown that it is totally unreliable,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said on Monday.
Mr Qasemi criticised the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal and economic sanctions that follow, noting “there are no conditions for such a discussion at all”.
In May, Mr Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 international agreement designed to deny Tehran the ability to build nuclear weapons.
Since then, Iran and other signatories have been working to find a way to salvage the agreement, even as the US has started reimposing some sanctions on Iran.
World powers and Iran have been working on an economic package to compensate for US sanctions that begin taking effect in August.
Mr Trump drew a comparison with his diplomacy toward North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, whom he met at a June 12 summit, with the aim of convincing Pyongyang to give up its nuclear arsenal.
“We met as you know with Chairman Kim and you haven’t had a missile fired off in nine months. We got our prisoners back. So many things have happened so positive,” Mr Trump said.