Iran's foreign minister flew into the French resort hosting the G7 summit yesterday, an unexpected twist to a meeting already troubled by differences between Donald Trump and Western allies over a raft of issues, including Iran.
A White House official said France's invitation to Mohammad Javad Zarif for talks on the sidelines of the meeting in the Basque beachside town of Biarritz was "a surprise", and there were no plans for US officials to meet him.
Mr Zarif went straight into talks with his French counterpart to assess what conditions could lead to a de-escalation of tension between Tehran and Washington.
European leaders have struggled to calm a deepening confrontation between Iran and the US since Mr Trump pulled his country out of Iran's internationally brokered 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran's economy.
Earlier at the summit, Mr Trump appeared to brush aside French efforts to mediate with Iran, saying that while he was happy for Paris to reach out to Tehran, he would carry on with his own initiatives.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who has taken the lead in trying to defuse tensions, fearing a collapse of the nuclear deal could set the Middle East ablaze, met Mr Zarif on Friday. The aim was to discuss plans to ease the crisis, including reducing some US sanctions.
Iran wants to export a minimum of 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) of its oil and ideally up to 1.5 million bpd if the West wants to negotiate with Tehran to save the 2015 deal, two Iranian officials said.
Mr Trump insisted yesterday he was getting along well with other leaders of a group that also includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.