Iranian President Hassan Rouhani downplayed the chance of a potential meeting with US President Donald Trump this week, accusing him of undermining trust in relations between the two countries, in an exclusive interview with Fox News on Tuesday.
Rouhani, who is attending the UN General Assembly in New York, was questioned regarding the likelihood of the two presidents speaking on the sidelines of the venue, as reference was made to Trump’s Sunday statement that he had "no intention" of meeting with Rouhani in New York City.
"Nothing is ever off the table completely, but I have no intention of meeting with Iran," Trump had said.
"Why would we bump into one another?" the Iranian leader told host Chris Wallace.
"If we seek to pursue higher goals to benefit both countries, both people, it must be planned, and talks must be based on those plans. But prior to that, we must create mutual trust, and the trust that is something that Mr. Trump took away from this framework.”
Washington Scrapped Iran Nuclear Deal Without "Valid Justification"
When questioned regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the Iran nuclear deal, that Washington withdrew from unilaterally in 2018, Rouhani said:
“We had an agreement. Mr. Trump exited without a valid justification, and illegally, from an international agreement. So, if the United States of America’s government is willing to talk, it must create the needed conditions," the Iranian President said.
Mention was made of other nations - signatories to the deal, such as the United Kingdom, France and Germany, which up until now had sought to support it, but have since said they agreed with the stance that Trump took. Iran's President continued to underscore the vital importance of trust in international dealings:
"Well, once we carried on negotiations with the United States of America for two years, and we did reach an agreement which was signed, and it was enshrined in the United Nations Security Council resolution, and without a valid reason or cause, the United States left this agreement. So, it took away the foundation of the needed trust. Mr. Trump damaged the trust between the two countries."
Sanctions a "Type of Terrorism”
The Iranian leader took up the matter of the crippling sanctions in place against his country and suggested that a key way to rebuilding trust would be to remove them, describing them as "a type of terrorism".
"Trust must be restored, and the restoration of trust consists in taking away the pressure imposed upon the nation and the people of Iran, which shows that clearly there is animosity even towards our children, our ill people, because we -- they even have difficulty in obtaining basic medications and medical equipment. This is a type of terrorism,” Rouhani said.
Rouhani emphasised that only it put an end to this “inhumane” pressure can there be any hope for the atmosphere to change, and talks become a viable possibility regarding many different topics of mutual interest for both sides.
"America Key Supporter of Terrorism"
When asked about Donald Trump's UN speech earlier on Tuesday, in which he spoke of Iran's "blood lust" and "fanatical quest for nuclear weapons", the Iranian President responded by saying that America, not Iran, was the key supporter of Middle East terrorism.
"I am amazed at the interpretations of Mr. Trump, vis-a-vis terrorism", Rouhani said.
"Today, America, unfortunately, is the supporter of terrorism in our region -- and wherever America has gone, terrorism has expanded in the wake."
The Iranian President pointed to US military involvement in Syria without the permission of President Bashar al-Assad as an example of such US “terrorism”.
The Iranian President’s interview comes against the backdrop of the UN General Assembly in New York, where on Monday European heads of state joined the chorus of voices accusing Tehran of culpability in the recent attack on Saudi Aramco oil facilities.
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that Iran was behind the 14 September attacks against Saudi Arabia's oil facilities.
Earlier, Washington and Riyadh had laid the blame for the incident on Iran, with the latter vehemently denying any role in the attack and emphasising that the Yemeni Houthi movement had claimed responsibility for the drone strike. Yemen has used drones to strike Saudi Arabian oil production facilities in the past.
Recent events have fed the fire of spiralling US-Iran tensions, as the relations between the countries took a downturn after Washington walked out of the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 and reinstated harsh sanctions on the Islamic Republic.