Germany’s foreign minister says it remains important to stop any “spiral” of escalation in the Arabian Gulf amid heightened tensions with Iran. Heiko Maas made the comment Sunday night in Abu Dhabi during a news conference with his Emirati counterpart, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Maas also stressed the importance of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Germany is a signatory on the accord, which US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled America from a year ago. Of renegotiating the deal, Maas said: “Less for less is something we wouldn’t accept.” Maas will meet with Iranian officials on Monday in Tehran. His visit comes ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s trip to Iran later this week to try to ease tensions. “We Europeans are convinced that it is worth trying to keep the Vienna nuclear agreement with Iran,” Maas said, adding he wanted dialogue even when disputes seemed insurmountable.
Washington has sent more military forces to the Middle East, including an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and Patriot missiles, in a show of force against what US officials call Iranian threats to US troops and interests in the region. Last month, Iran scaled back some commitments under the 2015 deal and warned that in 60 days it would resume refining uranium to a higher fissile degree than that permitted by the accord if Europe failed to shield its trade benefits from US sanctions.
Iran has always said its nuclear activity is peaceful and refuses to put its missile and military capabilities on the negotiating table, as the Trump administration has demanded. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted by Fars news agency on Sunday as saying Maas’ trip to Tehran showed Germany was trying to “keep the (nuclear deal) alive”. But, suggesting Tehran did not view Maas as a mediator between Tehran and Washington, he added: “It is unlikely that the German foreign minister is travelling to Tehran to carry a special message.” The German foreign minister will also meet Zarif in Tehran.
Maas, who also stopped in Jordan and Abu Dhabi on his Middle East tour, has coordinated his trip with France and Britain and it also discussed it with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Iran said on Sunday Europe was in no position to criticise Tehran for its military capabilities and it called on European leaders to normalise trade ties with the Islamic Republic despite US sanctions, or face consequences.
“Europeans are not in a position to criticise Iran for issues outside the JCPOA,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted as saying by the state broadcaster, using the acronym for the nuclear deal. “The Europeans and other signatories of the JCPOA should normalise economic ties with Iran … We will halt our commitments or will take action in accordance with their measures.” Last month, Iran scaled back some commitments under the 2015 deal and warned that in 60 days it would resume enriching uranium to a higher degree than that permitted by the accord if the Europeans failed to shield it against the US sanctions, which aim to cripple its oil-dependent economy. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas will visit Iran this week to explore options for preserving the fraying nuclear non-proliferation pact.
Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani on Sunday criticised French President Emmanuel Macron for saying last week in a meeting with Trump that they shared the same objectives on Iran. Macron said France wanted to make sure Tehran will not get nuclear weapons: “We had an accord until 2025 and we want to go further and have full certainty in the long run … (Then) reduce ballistic activity and contain Iran regionally.” Larijani was quoted as saying by state media: “The recent remarks by the French president in a meeting with Trump were shameful and inept … Macron’s comments did not match what he has been telling our president … in their meetings and on the phone.” Iran insists its nuclear activities are entirely peaceful, and has repeatedly refused to discuss its missile programme. Tehran unveiled on Sunday a new “domestically-produced” air defence system with the capability to trace six targets – including fighter jets, bombers and drones at the same time and destroy them with missiles.