President Donald Trump expressed willingness on Monday to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in order to discuss how to improve ties between Washington and Tehran after he withdrew the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Reuters reports.
Trump, who was talking at a White House press conference, said that if Iranians are willing to meet, they would meet. That would be a first for any U.S. president since diplomatic ties were cut in 1979 when the Iranian Shah and ally of the United States was toppled.
However, Bloomberg informs that hours after President Trump made the statement, the White House walked back those comments, saying that the Iranian regime must change “its behavior in the ways we’ve identified” for the U.S. to end sanctions and “re-establish full diplomatic and commercial relations.”
Washington is seeking to force Iran to end its nuclear program and its financing of terrorist groups in the Middle East, from Syria to Yemen.
“If the Iranians demonstrate a commitment to make fundamental changes in how they treat their own people, reduce their malign behavior…then the President said he’s prepared to sit down and have the conversation with them,” noted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In response, Iran said that the U.S. would need to show that it respects Iran and is returning to the nuclear deal that Trump rejected for the leaders of the two countries to meet.
“Respecting the Iranian nation’s rights, reducing hostilities and returning to the nuclear deal are steps that can be taken to pave the bumpy road of talks between Iran and America,” Hamid Aboutalebi, an adviser to Rouhani, tweeted on Tuesday.
Only a week before such softening of tone between the two leaders, they exchanged harsh tweets promising war if the other side threatened their country. During Monday’s press conference, Trump compared his milder rhetoric toward Rouhani to his diplomacy toward North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying that after their meeting “many things have happened so positive.”
However, considering President Trump’s opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, many analysts believe it would be very hard for Iran’s political leaders to meet with the U.S. President.