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German FM insists nuclear deal is best way to confront Iran’s ‘reckless’ acts

Speaking to INSS conference, Heiko Maas says Tehran’s missiles, proxies must also be addressed; calls for end to settlement construction

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaks to the media after a meeting on the divisive migrant issue in Paris, France, July 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaks to the media after a meeting on the divisive migrant issue in Paris, France, July 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Iran’s missile program and “aggressive” activities across the Middle East must be addressed, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Wednesday.

“But the best tool for doing so remains the JCPOA,” Maas stressed, referring to the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers known as the P5+1. “Although it may be far from perfect, it does give us more transparency than we ever had before.”

The JCPOA currently does not address Iran’s regional activities or its missile program.

Maas was speaking on the second night of the Institute for National Security Studies’s 14th annual international conference. The event was being held virtually because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“Tehran’s reckless behavior in the past weeks served as a reminder why we must stop the country from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon,” said Maas.

Since 2019, Tehran has suspended its compliance with most of the limits set by the agreement in response to Washington’s abandonment of the accord and sanctions relief, and the failure of other parties to the deal to make up for it. It is now enriching uranium to 20 percent, a short technical step away from weapons-grade levels.

Israel, the UAE and Bahrain all seek to dissuade the Biden administration from returning to the JCPOA in its original form.

The Islamic Republic’s foreign minister warned last week that his country would not accept changes to the terms of the 2015 pact. US President Joe Biden has indicated he will rejoin the deal but seek changes to address other issues of concern.

File: An Iranian technician walks through the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan 255 miles (410 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Feb. 3, 2007 (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Maas also addressed settlements, arguing that “the chances of a two-state solution are diminishing with every act of, or call for, violence. But also with every new housing unit that is built in a West Bank settlement.”

Israel approved the construction of almost 800 housing units in West Bank settlements three days before Biden’s inauguration. The move was condemned by European states and the United Nations.

Maas called for a halt to plans to build in the Givat Hamatos neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

A Jerusalem court earlier this month halted the auction of 1,257 new units in Givat Hamatos, after Palestinians submitted a petition claiming that the manner in which many of the units were being sold discriminated against them. Last week, however, the court lifted the order, allowing the tender process to proceed, according to the left-wing Ir Amim organization that submitted the petition.

Maas recounted that one of “the most moving experiences” over the past year was meeting FM Gabi Ashkenazi and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.

“Without many words being spoken, we showed our Emirati friends where the State of Israel comes from,” he said, seeming to allude to the controversial notion that Israel exists because of the Holocaust. “And why its security matters so much — to Israelis, but also to us Germans.”

The 2020 Abraham Accords require further steps, he said, arguing that true peace won’t come without a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Without a negotiated two-state solution, there will be no lasting peace.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report. 

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