The United States and Iran are set to put forward their competing visions of security in the Middle East to the United Nations General Assembly this week, with US President Donald Trump expected to address the gathering of world leaders on Tuesday, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani the following day.
Even as tensions continue to simmer in the Middle East, following the attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil fields and the exchange of sharp rhetoric between Washington and Tehran, the two leaders are holding out hope for diplomacy, with Trump saying he is “a very flexible person” and Rouhani extending a “hand of friendship and brotherhood” towards its regional neighbours.
On Sunday, Trump once again left open the possibility of an unscheduled meeting with Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, according to Aljazeera report.
“Nothing is ever off the table, completely, but I have no intention of meeting with Iran and that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen,” Trump said. “I’m a very flexible person, but we have no intention. It’s not set up.”
When asked if there would be any discussions between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or another American representative with the Iranian delegation at the UN General Assembly, a high-ranking American official said there was “nothing planned.”
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According to Aljazeera report, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour tweeted that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told her in an interview that Rouhani was willing to meet Trump in New York this week “provided that President Trump is ready to do what’s necessary” by exchanging sanctions relief for “permanent monitoring of Iranian nuclear facilities.”
“The olive branch has always been on the table, but we’re showing it again,” Zarif added, according to Amanpour’s tweet.
In a televised speech earlier on Sunday marking the anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, Rouhani said that Iran was extending a “hand of friendship and brotherhood” to neighbouring countries to secure the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz – a vital gateway for the global oil industry, Aljazeera reported.
But the Iranian president also warned foreign forces to “stay away” from the region.
“Foreign forces can cause problems and insecurity for our people and for our region,” Rouhani said.