President Donald Trump on Thursday will meet with the president of the Swiss government in order to try to establish a channel with which he can speak to Iranians as tensions between the country and the US heighten, according to a person familiar with ongoing discussions inside the White House.
Trump will meet with the President of the Swiss Confederation, Ueli Maurer, at the White House to discuss the nations’ relationship and “matters such as Switzerland’s role in facilitating diplomatic relations and other international issues,” the White House said in a statement.
The President has indicated recently he is intent on speaking with the Iranians, and the source said this meeting with the Swiss is intended to try and move that along.
The Iranians have thus far shown no public willingness to speak to Trump, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said this week that negotiations with the US would be akin to “poison.”
The US and Iran do not have an official diplomatic relationship, but Switzerland serves as the protecting power for the US in the country. That means they represent US interests in Iran, performing services for US citizens in the country like visa processing. They also serve as a channel for diplomacy between the two nations though there are other mechanisms for the two nations to communicate.
Last week, after Trump publicly appealed to Iran to call him amid heightened tensions with Tehran, the White House contacted the Swiss to share a phone number the Iranians could call the President on, according to a diplomatic source familiar with the move.
The source said the Swiss likely won’t hand over the number unless the Iranians specifically ask for it and it’s thought they are highly unlikely to do so. White House officials say Trump’s overtures are sincere.
Thursday’s meeting comes as the Trump administration makes a number of maneuverings in the Middle East that have ratcheted up tensions with Iran.
Last week, the Pentagon positioned an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers in the region, and the White House has reportedly updated war plans to include the deployment of 120,000 US troops to the Middle East in the event that Iran strikes American forces in the region or speeds up its development of nuclear weapons.
CNN’s Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.