After summits with Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in recent weeks, President Donald Trump said Monday he would meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, but he expressed doubt that Iran is ready to do so.
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“I’ll meet anybody. I believe in meeting,” Trump answered, appearing at a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the White House. “Speaking to other people, especially when you are talking about potentials of war and death, and famine and lots of other things, you meet. There is nothing wrong with meeting.”
The declaration comes just days after Trump blasted Rouhani on Twitter, warning of military force.
A week later, the president has now softened his rhetoric.
“I would certainly meet with Iran if they’re ready to meet,” he continued, adding that he doesn’t think Iran is serious about scheduling a meeting yet. “I don't know that they are ready yet. They are having a hard time right now.”
On May 8, Trump announced that the U.S. was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, keeping a campaign promise, but ignoring the advice of America’s allies. After removing the U.S from the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he reimposed economic sanctions on Iran.
Monday, Trump also said he would not require any preconditions for a meeting.
“I believe they will wind up wanting to meet. I'm ready to meet any time they want,” he said. “I don’t do that from strength or weakness. I think it’s an appropriate thing to do. If we could work something out that's meaningful, not the waste of paper that the other deal was, I would certainly be willing to meet.”
At the conclusion of the news conference, Trump twice said that he will not lift sanctions imposed against Russia in response to the Kremlin's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
“Sanctions on Russia will remain, as is,” the president declared.
Trump then told reporters that he would like to see “a competing pipeline” in the region, and said he is talking with the Europeans about building additional ports capable of receiving shipments of U.S. liquefied natural gas.
“Sanctions on Russia will remain as is,” Trump repeated.