Iran is central to the de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Tuesday, days after the Islamic Republic’s decades-long international isolation effectively came to an end.
The July 2015 nuclear agreement officially entered into force on Saturday, when the United Nations confirmed that Tehran has shrunk its atomic program, and ushered in the lifting of painful international sanctions on Iran.
“We need Iran to calm the conflicts and re-establish stability in this crisis-hit region. And I hope Iran is ready for this,” Steinmeier said, referring to the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Yemen, according to the Reuters news agency.
Steinmeier said reducing violence and calming tensions in Syria is crucial to solving the refugee crisis in Europe, which has deeply divided the European Unions in how to respond to massive influx of displaced people who have fled to the continent.
The foreign minister also expressed hope the all-but severed ties between Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shiite-dominated Iran could be eventually restored.
“Neighborly tensions, like those between Saudi Arabia and Iran, will not turn into friendship overnight,” he said.
“In a first step, a lot would be achieved if both sides brought the current situation under control, not let it escalate, and talked to each other,” he said.
Tensions between the regional rivals have intensified during the nearly five-year war in Syria, where Iran is backing the regime, and the conflict in Yemen where a Saudi-led coalition is battling Shiite rebels.
The diplomatic crisis increased earlier this month when Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shi’ite Muslim cleric, triggering mass demonstrations and further and unrest in the region.
“I am very confident that this new beginning of German-Iranian relations will be filled with substance,” Steinmeier told foreign journalists in Berlin.
Days after the landmark nuclear accord was reached in July last year, German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel flew to Iran as the first top Western official to visit the country in decades.
The head of the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Eric Schweitzer, who accompanied Gabriel on the trip, said bilateral trade between Iran and Germany could quadruple in the next two to three years to some 10 billion euros.
AFP contributed to this report.