Iran's Zarif to Trump: Drop 'economic terrorism' before talks

Iran's foreign minister also warns during his visit to Malaysia that ISIL still poses a threat in the Middle East.

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    Zarif speaks at the Islamic World Forum in Kuala Lumpur [Mohd RASFAN/AFP]
    Zarif speaks at the Islamic World Forum in Kuala Lumpur [Mohd RASFAN/AFP]

    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Iran will not be meeting with the administration of US President Donald Trump unless Washington stops its "economic terrorism" against the Iranian people, Iran's foreign minister says referring to the US leader as the "mentality that wants to buy Greenland".

    "The United States is engaged in economic war against the Iranian people. It won't be possible for us to engage with US unless they stop imposing a war, engaging in economic terrorism," Mohammad Zarif told reporters on Thursday after speaking at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies in the Malaysian capital. 

    "If they want to come back to the room, there is a ticket, and that ticket is to observe the agreement," he said, referring to the 2015 nuclear deal signed by Iran and world powers.

    Zarif said Iran does not want to "meet for the sake of meeting".

    "The basic principle of civilised world is that you do not negotiate with terrorists," said Zarif.

    "If they want to negotiate, they have to abandon terrorism."

    Earlier at the forum, Zarif alluded to Trump as a person who believes building real estate will solve problems.

    "I don't want to bash anybody, but the mentality that wants to buy Greenland looks at every international development in terms of real estate ... believes that by building real estate property, you solve the problem," said Zarif.

    There were hopes on Monday that Trump and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, could break their political impasse following a surprise diplomatic manoeuvre by French President Emmanuel Macron at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France.

    Macron invited Zarif to meet on the sidelines of the summit, in an effort to facilitate a meeting between Trump and Rouhani.

    Speaking at a news conference at the end of the summit, Macron said that "a summit between President Rouhani and President Trump" was possible within weeks. France has taken on the role of mediator in hopes of saving the 2015 nuclear deal, which Trump unilaterally abandoned in 2018.

    Under the deal, Iran had agreed to significantly curb its enrichment of uranium. In exchange, Tehran would be allowed to openly sell its oil in the world market. 

    Since Trump abandoned the deal, US sanctions have been reimposed against Iran.

    Iran-Malaysia cooperation

    Rouhani had hinted on Monday that he was willing to meet Trump but said that the first step to that meeting is for the US to "retreat from sanctions".

    "Without taking this step, the deadlock will not be unlocked," Rouhani was quoted as saying.

    Iran's top diplomat made no comments in Kuala Lumpur about his Biarritz meeting with Macron.

    TALK TO AL JAZEERA: Javad Zarif on US

    At the security forum on Thursday, Zarif also warned that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) armed group remains a threat even after losing its territories.

    "ISIS became a non-state actor with important role in international affairs and that is why it was important to defeat ISIS and that is why Iran participated actively … in Syria and Iraq," Zarif said.

    "We are happy that the territorial ISIS has been defeated, but the ISIS has not been defeated and we need to be very concerned and cognitive of this fact and continue to be united in the face of this threat,” said Zarif.

    At least 65 Malaysians have been detained in Syria for joining ISIL, 39 of whom have expressed a wish to return home.

    Malaysia has detained a total of 519 "terror suspects" as of July 31, according to official figures.

    During his visit, Zarif also met Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and held talks with Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah.

    Saifuddin posted a video on social media showing him welcoming Zarif and Ambassador Marzieh Afkham, Iran's first female ambassador since 1979 who represents Tehran in Kuala Lumpur.

    Zarif praised Mahathir, saying he has "deep respect" for the Malaysian prime minister "for the role he played in developing the Muslim world".

    Zarif later paid a courtesy call to Mahathir at his office in the administrative capital of Putrajaya where he was warmly welcomed.

    "Today I received His Excellency Dr Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Islamic Republic of Iran at my office in Putrajaya. We discussed several issues of mutual interest as well as improving bilateral ties between our two countries," said Mahathir on Twitter.

    According to a 2017 report, there are an estimated 4,000 Iranian students are studying in Malaysia and thousands more live there.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News