US President Donald Trump said Thursday that he hopes mounting tensions with Iran do not spiral into war.
“Hope not,” Trump said in response to a reporter’s question about a possible armed conflict with Tehran, ahead of his meeting at the White House with Swiss President Ueli Maurer.
Trump was set to meet with Maurer in an effort to open a communications channel with Iran, CNN reported.
The meeting would discuss “Switzerland’s role in facilitating diplomatic relations and other international issues,” the White House said.
Trump has expressed interest in speaking with the Iranians, although Tehran has not reciprocated, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei saying that negotiations with Washington would be “poison.”
As the US and Iran have no diplomatic ties, the Swiss embassy in Tehran handles US interests in the country and serves as a diplomatic channel between Washington and the Islamic Republic. Switzerland also hosted negotiations to finalize the nuclear deal.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have soared in recent weeks with a war of words between American and Iranian leaderships, allegations of sabotage attacks targeting oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, a drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline claimed by Yemen’s Iranian-allied rebels, and the dispatch of US warships and bombers to the region.
At the root of the recent spike in Persian Gulf tensions appears to be Trump’s decision a year ago to pull the US from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, embarking on a maximalist sanctions campaign against Tehran to cripple the country’s economy.
Last week, US officials said they had detected signs of Iranian preparations for potential attacks on US forces and interests in the Middle East, but Washington has not publicly provided any evidence to back up claims of an increased Iranian threat.