Iran brusquely dismissed a German official’s appeal that it recognize the State of Israel’s right to exist, saying its stance is not going to change following the signing of a nuclear accord with world powers.
“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 Monday, according to the Fars news agency.
She added that “this is not something new.”
German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel had warned Sunday at the start of a three-day visit to Tehran that Berlin could not accept Iran’s questioning of Israel’s right to exist, and that such attitudes could harm business relations between the two countries. He also said Germany would be willing to mediate between the two enemies.
But Afkham stressed that “the main goal of the German vice chancellor’s visit to Iran is a discussion of the prospects of mutual cooperation. We quite naturally have our own concerns and views on existing threats, including the Zionist regime’s threats and the roots of the crises in the region.”
Gabriel is heading a delegation of representatives from German companies, one of the first overt signs of a thaw following a deal with world powers over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. The German delegation is the first to visit Iran after negotiators struck the nuclear deal in Vienna last week. Germany was among the six world powers involved in the talks.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said at a meeting with Gabriel Monday that closer ties between Iran and Germany would help bridge the gap between Europe and the entire Middle East, the official IRNA news agency reported.
Rouhani said he hoped Germany would play a “positive role” in improving relations between Iran and the EU, “as it played a positive role in nuclear talks.”
In response to Rouhani’s comments, Gabriel said “I am sure the business community of Germany and the German government will take stronger steps in the way you indicated,” according to ISNA.
But Gabriel warned that obstacles still remained that could affect the pace of German investment in Iran.
“Issues of human rights, civil rights of citizens and other individuals — and especially the security of Israel — are all of great significance for Germany,” he said.
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said earlier in the day that the two nations would hold their first joint economic conference in a decade later this year. He said it would be aimed at laying the groundwork for businesses in both countries to work together as sanctions are lifted. The last such event was held in 2002 before the imposition of international economic sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program.
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.
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. On Saturday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described Israel in a 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.
His remarks were greeted intermittently by chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”
AFP contributed to this report.