Tehran denies reports of planned Zarif-Tillerson meeting in NY

Tehran denied reports that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are to meet on the sidelines of the 72nd annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week.

Amid speculation that the two were planning a sit-down, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi told Iranian media that there were “no plans” for such a meeting.

Qassemi said Zarif would attend the event next week and will hold talks with counterparts from Europe, Asia and the Mideast.

On Friday, the AFP news agency reported, citing diplomats, that Tillerson was expected to hold a first meeting on the Iran nuclear deal with Zarif and other parties to the agreement — namely representatives of Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — on the sidelines of the annual gathering.

According to the report, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini was set to have chaired the talks.

The reported meeting would have come as US President Donald Trump is weighing whether to quit the historic 2015 agreement.

Trump is expected to give a his first speech before the General Assembly on September 19 that will “urge all states to come together to address great dangers” like North Korea and Iran, US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Friday.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani too is expected to touch on the fate of the nuclear deal in his UN address on Wednesday, a day after Trump.

The US on Thursday waived nuclear-related sanctions on Iran but slapped new ones on 11 companies and individuals accused of engaging in cyber attacks against US banks.

Trump is due to decide before October 15 whether Iran has breached the 2015 nuclear agreement, and critics fear he may abandon an accord they think prevents Tehran from building a nuclear bomb.

Under the nuclear deal, Iran surrendered much of its enriched uranium, dismantled a reactor and submitted nuclear sites to UN inspection, while Washington and Europe lifted some sanctions.

On a visit to the United States in July, Zarif complained that he had yet to discuss the agreement with Tillerson and that the administration was sending “contradictory signals” about the fate of the landmark agreement.

“There are no communications between myself and Secretary Tillerson,” Zarif said.

“It doesn’t mean there can’t be. The possibilities for engagement… have always been open.”

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