On a three day visit to Tehran, Vice Chancellor of Germany Sigmar Gabriel warned Sunday that Germany cannot accept Iran’s questioning of Israel’s right to exist. He called on Iranian officials to fix its relations with the Jewish state as a sign of good faith in developing and strengthening ties with Western powers.
Gabriel, who also serves as Germany’s Finance Minister, is the first official to visit Iran from one of the P5+1 powers who signed the nuclear treaty with the Islamic Republic last week. Germany, who has had close political and economic ties with Israel since the 1950s, is in a delicate position vis a vis the dynamic between the two enemy countries.
Gabriel offered to have Berlin arbitrate and be a go between for the two countries, in an effort to bridge the gap between the Iranians, who have sworn themselves to be enemies of Israel.
“You cannot maintain positive long term economic relations with Germany, if you do not discuss these matters and attempt to make progress in them,” said Gabriel to a group of Iranian and German businessmen at a gathering in Tehran. “We Germans cannot accept the questioning of Israel’s right to exist”.
Gabriel, who met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday, voiced his hopes to the Iranian leader that Germany would play a “positive role” in improving relations between Iran and the EU, “as it played a positive role in nuclear talks.”
Up until 2007, Germany was Iran’s biggest financial partner outside of the Persian Gulf states until being supplanted by China towards the end of 2007.
However, it appears Vice Chancellor’s comments were not taken seriously by the Iranian government.
Iran quickly dismissed Gabriel’s comments. According to a report by Iranian Fars News Agency , Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham responded to Gabriel’s comment and said: “We have totally different views from Germany on certain regional issues in the Middle East and we have explicitly expressed our viewpoints in different negotiations. This is not something new.”
Afkham continued to say that “the main goal of the German vice chancellor’s visit to Iran is a discussion of the prospects of mutual cooperation. We quite naturally have our own concerns and views on existing threats, including the Zionist regime’s threats and the roots of the crises in the region.”
Gabriel responded to the comments by stating:“I am sure the business community of Germany and the German government will take stronger steps in the way you indicated.” He added that there were impediments that remained within current Iranian policies that prevent Germany from investing as much as it would otherwise.
“Issues of human rights, civil rights of citizens and other individuals — and especially the security of Israel — are all of great significance for Germany,” he said.