German minister in Iran: We can’t accept questioning of Israel’s right to exist
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German minister in Iran: We can’t accept questioning of Israel’s right to exist

In first visit by Western official to Iran since nuclear deal reached, vice chancellor offers to mediate between Jerusalem and Tehran

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel (left) listen to a debate in the Bundestag, the German lower house of parliament in Berlin, on July 17, 2015. (John McDougall/AFP)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel (left) listen to a debate in the Bundestag, the German lower house of parliament in Berlin, on July 17, 2015. (John McDougall/AFP)

Germany cannot accept Iran questioning Israel’s right to exist, a practice that could harm business relations between the two countries, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel warned at the start of a three-day visit to Tehran on Sunday.

He said Berlin would be willing to mediate between the two enemies.

“You can’t have a good economic relationship with Germany in the long-term if we don’t discuss such issues too and try to move them along,” Reuters quoted Gabriel as telling a gathering of German and Iranian business people in Tehran.

“Questioning this state’s [Israel’s] right to existence is something that we Germans cannot accept,” he said.

He said that with the deal signed and the two countries now able to forge closer ties, the time had arrived to discuss human rights.

Gabriel, who is also Chancellor Angela Merkel’s deputy and Germany’s energy minister, embarked on the three-day trip with a “small delegation of representatives from companies, industry groups and the sciences,” his ministry said in a statement.

Gabriel was due to hold talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and several ministers.

The long-sought nuclear pact reached last week “lays the foundation for normalizing economic ties with Iran on the condition that the steps set out in it are now implemented,” Gabriel said in the statement.

The head of the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Eric Schweitzer, who is accompanying Gabriel, called the trip “an encouraging sign” for companies barred from doing business with the resource-rich Islamic Republic due to long-standing international sanctions.

AFP contributed to this report.

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