German foreign minister to visit Iran in October
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German foreign minister to visit Iran in October

Steinmeier the second top Western diplomat to travel to Iran since nuclear pact inked, amid push to increase trade

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier leaves Palais Coburg where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran took place in Vienna, Austria, Thursday, July 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier leaves Palais Coburg where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran took place in Vienna, Austria, Thursday, July 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

Germany’s foreign minister announced Monday that he was planning to visit Iran in October, the second top Western diplomat to travel to the country following last month’s nuclear deal, as part of German efforts to revitalize historically strong economic ties between the two countries.

A government representative said that the details of Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s trip had not yet been finalized, Reuters reported.

Germany, Europe’s largest economy, became the first Western country to send a top official to Iran following the nuclear agreement, when Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel visited last month.

Gabriel traveled to Tehran with a delegation of German business leaders in a move to strengthen political and economic relations between the two countries.

Germany was among the six world powers involved in reaching the nuclear agreement, which promises a lifting of biting sanctions in exchange for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.

During Gabriel’s visit, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that closer ties between Iran and Germany would help bridge the gap between Europe and the entire Middle East.

Rouhani, however, rejected Gabriel’s appeal that Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist.

“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,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham said, according to the Fars news agency.

She added that “this is not something new.”

Iran and the Germany have a history of economic ties dating back to the 19th century. Germany was a major trade partner in the 1990s and more than 200,000 Iranians live there.

European countries, including Britain, France, Serbia and Italy, have sent officials and delegations to Iran following the nuclear agreement in a bid to secure possible economic opportunities. Spain and Austria are scheduled to send delegations next month.

Britain reopened its embassy in Tehran Sunday, four years after a mob stormed the compound, forcing its closure.

Israel remains strongly opposed to the nuclear deal and its government maintains it has not ruled out a unilateral military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Iran does not recognize Israel and supports anti-Israeli terror groups like the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described Israel in a July speech as a “terrorist, baby-killer government.”

He also vowed that the nuclear agreement would not change Iran’s policy against the “arrogant American government,” nor would it change the Islamic Republic’s policy of supporting its “friends” in the region.

Times of Israel staff, AP and AFP contributed to this report.

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