US Secretary of Defense urges Iran to hold talks with Washington in order to ease tensions in the Gulf region

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper urged Iran on Wednesday to enter into talks with the United States to ease tensions in the Gulf region.

“We’re not seeking a dispute with Iran”, Esper told the first official news conference after his confirmation.

We would like to engage them diplomatically”.

“President Donald Trump has once again said that he would like to meet with Iran’s leaders”.

“We hope the Iranians will agree to meet and talk and help us resolve these issues”, he said.

At the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, Trump, who has pushed hard to pressure Tehran, showed openness to French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal for a summit with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani.

“If the conditions are right, I’ll definitely agree”, Trump told a joint news conference with Macron.

That could be the best way out of ending more than two years of mutual hostilities between Washington and Tehran.

Unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, Trump is exercising “maximum pressure” on Tehran over its disputed nuclear program, and unilaterally withdrew last year from a nuclear deal that put an end to Iran’s nuclear activities in return for easing international sanctions.

Twelve months after Washington pulled out, Tehran stopped its commitment to some of the commitments stipulated in the agreement, to exceed the maximum limit for uranium enrichment as well as the size of the allowed stock.

The situation was further escalated with the attack of ships in the Gulf, the downing of a US drone and the seizure of oil tankers.

In the aftermath, Washington launched Operation Marine Sentinel to protect merchant ships in the Gulf.

“I am delighted to announce that the Centennial process is ongoing with the UK, Australia and Bahrain joining us in these efforts”, Esper said.

More countries are likely to join the process, which has helped ease tensions in the region, he said.

“Between our presence and the presence of our allies and partners in the region, I think so far that bad provocative behavior has been deterred”, Esber said.

“We want to talk to Iran and talk through a diplomat to move forward”, “I’m not sure I’m ready to say the crisis is over… So far, the situation is very good”.