TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani came out strongly in favor of talks Monday as his top diplomat came under fire from hardline media for a surprise visit to a G7 summit.
“I believe that for our country’s national interests we must use any tool,” Rouhani said in a speech aired live on state television.
“And if I knew that I was going to have a meeting with someone that would [lead to] prosperity for my country and people’s problems would be resolved, I would not hesitate.
“The main thing is our country’s national interests,” he said to a round of applause from those gathered at an event marking government achievements in rural areas.
Rouhani’s remarks came as his government faced criticism over the visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the French seaside resort of Biarritz on Sunday for meetings on the sidelines of the G7 summit.
Zarif was invited to Biarritz by French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been leading efforts to de-escalate tensions between Iran and the United States.
Iran's active diplomacy in pursuit of constructive engagement continues.
Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying. pic.twitter.com/oXdACvt20T
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) August 25, 2019
Iran’s economy has been battered by US sanctions imposed since last year when US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and world powers.
The ultra-conservative Kayhan newspaper strongly criticized Zarif’s visit on Monday in an article that called the trip “improper.”
Kayhan said the fact that the minister’s visit was the second to France in a matter of days sent “a message of weakness and desperation.”
“These improper measures are taken in the fantasy of an opening but it will definitely have no other outcome other than more insolence and pressure,” it added.
The reformist Etemad newspaper, however, described Zarif’s trip to France as “the most hopeful moment” for Iran in the 15 months since the US withdrew from the nuclear deal.
“Given Macron’s attempts over the last two months, one can be hopeful that Trump’s response to Macron’s ideas has been the main reason for Zarif’s… trip to Biarritz,” it said.