NEW YORK (AP) — Iran’s foreign minister said the government has received “contradictory signals” from the Trump administration and doesn’t know how to interpret them, but he held open the possibility of talks and improved relations with the United States.
In a wide-ranging session at the Council on Foreign Relations, Mohammad Javad Zarif said he hasn’t communicated with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. But he said “it doesn’t mean that there can’t be (communication), because the possibilities for engagement with regard to the nuclear deal has always been open.”
He also criticized Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally and rival in the Mideast, saying Arab states primarily “have been incapable” of addressing the basic needs of their people which has given rise to anger, resentment and incitement.
But Zarif said Iran and Saudi Arabia can and should work together to end the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, where they support opposing sides. “We don’t need to fight to exclude each other from the scene in the Middle East,” he said, “because in the end neither will be able to exclude the other.” He added that “extremist forces are as much a threat against us, but even more against them.”
Zarif is in the United States to speak Tuesday at a high-level meeting assessing progress toward meeting U.N. goals for 2030 to combat poverty, achieve gender equality, promote economic development and good governance, and preserve the environment.
He answered questions at the council ahead of an announcement by the State Department just before the Monday midnight deadline that Iran is still complying with the 2015 nuclear deal, which it must do every three months. But it insisted Tehran would face consequences for breaching “the spirit” of the deal.
Zarif said the International Atomic Energy Agency, “which is hardly a sympathizer for Iran,” has verified its compliance with the agreement.
But unfortunately, he said, the U.S. has not complied, and the six parties to the agreement will be meeting in Vienna…