Iranian president says Tehran wants talks with Washington, but US must first lift sanctions
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned Tuesday that a war with his country would be the “mother of all wars,” as he called for peace as well.
“Peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, war with Iran is the mother of all wars,” Rouhani said. according to the Reuters news agency.
He also referred to Britain’s seizing off Gibraltar of an Iranian tanker suspected of carrying oil to war-torn Syria in violation of EU sanctions.
“A strait for a strait. It can’t be that the Strait of Hormuz is free for you and the Strait of Gibraltar is not free for us,” Rouhani said.
Rouhani also said Tehran wanted talks with Washington but the United States must first lift sanctions it imposed on the Islamic Republic.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran favors talks and negotiations and, if the US really wants to talk, before anything else it should lift all sanctions,” he said in remarks aired live on state television.
Rouhani, speaking at the foreign ministry after meeting with his top diplomat, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said Iran was ready for talks regardless of whether or not the US remained party to Tehran’s landmark nuclear deal with world powers.
“Whether they want to come into the JCPOA or not, it’s up to them,” said Rouhani, referring to the 2015 nuclear deal known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The Iranian foreign minister on Monday confirmed reports that he had turned down an offer from a US senator to meet President Donald Trump at the White House.
Tensions between Iran and the United States have soared since Trump announced last year that the US was withdrawing from the deal and began reimposing sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
The nuclear deal set limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the removal of punitive economic sanctions.
Drones have been downed and tankers seized by Iranian authorities or mysteriously attacked in Gulf waters, while Britain has detained the Iranian tanker off Gibraltar.
At the height of the crisis, Trump called off airstrikes against Iran at the last minute in June after the Islamic Republic’s forces shot down a US drone.
Further ratcheting up tensions, Iran said on Sunday its forces had seized a “foreign” tanker carrying smuggled fuel in what would be the third such seizure in less than a month in Gulf waters — a conduit for much of the world’s crude oil.
Last month, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard said it had impounded the Panama-flagged MT Riah for alleged fuel smuggling as well as the British-flagged Stena Impero for breaking “international maritime rules.”
In response to such incidents, the US has been seeking to form a coalition — dubbed Operation Sentinel — to guarantee freedom of navigation in the Gulf.
Last month Britain, while still led by former prime minister Theresa May, proposed a European-led maritime protection force.
But both plans struggled to find partners, with European countries believed to be reluctant to be dragged into a conflict.
Germany said on Monday that it was currently “not in favor” of joining an American-led coalition.
Meanwhile the US continues to target Iran economically, while holding out the prospect of possible talks.
It imposed sanctions against Zarif — under the same sanctions already applied to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — targeting any assets he has in America and squeezing his ability to travel.