Everything needs to be done to avoid an Israeli attack on Iran, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in an interview published Sunday.
While he asserted that there was still time for a diplomatic solution to the Iran question, he admitted that Tehran was not willing to conduct “substantial” negotiations about its nuclear program.
When asked whether a preemptive Israeli strike on Iran could provoke a new regional war, Westerwelle told German daily Die Welt that “we need to do everything to avoid that.”
“We want a political and diplomatic solution. It is still possible,” he said.
A nuclear-armed Iran was unacceptable, Westerwelle said, adding that it could set off a sprint for nuclear arms in the region.
“It’s about more than Israel’s security. That alone would already be a good reason to act. But we also need to prevent a nuclear arms race. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons it’s only a matter of time until other states in the region will reach for such weapons.”
The German foreign minister said that the entire German cabinet was “working with full force and great personal investment of the chancellor [Angela Merkel]” on a diplomatic solution.
Earlier this month, German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière said that an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would “not be illegitimate but also not very smart.”
Speaking to Die Welt, Westerwelle said that during his visit in Jerusalem earlier this month he told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak that Germany understands Israel’s security concerns.
“However, I recommended looking for a solution together with the international community. Diplomacy is still possible. However, the talks that Iran has been conducting so far aren’t substantial,” he said.
He and his British and French colleagues have asked European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to “prepare for the next round of sanctions,” Westerwelle said. “Because by now everybody sees that the sanctions are effective.”
Last week, six world powers — including the US, the UK, France and Germany — met with Iranian official to discuss Tehran’s nuclear program, without any tangible outcome. Ashton, who heads the so-called P5+1 groups, said the six nations would again seek to break the stalemate in nuclear talks with Iran again this week on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, which takes place in New York.
The West and Israel suspect Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons while the Islamic Republic claims to seek nuclear capability solely for peaceful purposes.