U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in New York on July 18, reported Al-Monitor, citing “a non-government expert in contact with the Iranian team.”
A U.S. official told the outlet the Trump administration knew of a possible meeting between the two to kick-start negotiations between the United States and Iran amid tensions between the two since the former withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal, reimposing sanctions lifted under it alongside enacting new financial penalties against the regime.
“We’re aware of reports of a supposed meeting between a U.S. senator and Zarif,” said the U.S. official. “It’s unclear how productive a conversation with Zarif would be, given his limited role in making decisions on behalf of the Iranian regime. The president has said several times that he is willing to talk with Iran. However, the regime has shown no signs they’re ready to meet diplomacy with diplomacy.”
Paul’s office declined to comment.
On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump confirmed that he has permitted Paul to talk to the Iranians.
“Rand is a friend of mine, and Rand asked me if he could get involved. The answer is ‘yes,’ and if the other senators ask me to get involved, I’d probably say ‘yes,’ depending on who they were,” the president told reporters at the White House. “I have many people involved, and Iran is going to work out very nicely.”