German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a decision by the United States to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal could plunge the Middle East into war, according to a Tuesday report.
During their January meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the German leader told the Israeli premier that an American withdrawal would also split the West, pitting the US and Israel against Germany, France, and the UK, along with Russia, China, and Iran, according to Israel’s Channel 10 news.
“Do you want that to happen?” she was quoting as asking Netanyahu.
Merkel also told the prime minister that Germany, the UK, and France will object to making any significant changes to the 2015 accord. A US about-face on the deal would undermine the future of international diplomacy efforts, as no “problematic” countries would again sign a deal because “they simply will not believe” the West will uphold its side of the bargain, the TV report quoted Merkel saying.
Netanyahu was said to have voiced his reservations to the agreement, saying that it still leaves Tehran with a pathway to obtaining a nuclear weapon, but the Channel 10 report did not elaborate on the prime minister’s response to Merkel’s reservations.
US President Donald Trump said in January that the deal between Iran and major powers must be “fixed” by May 12, or the United States will walk away, likely ending the accord.
On Monday, Channel 10 reported that for the past two months, American, French, British, and German diplomats have been working behind the scenes to stiffen pressure on Iran’s activities as a way to prevent Trump from abandoning the accord.
The parties reportedly worked out a proposal last week that would not cancel the nuclear accords, nor reopen it to negotiations, yet would significantly increase the pressure on Iran.
A European diplomat involved in the discussions told Israel’s Channel 10 that despite Trump’s threats to walk away from the Iran deal on May 12, when it is up for renewal, the gaps between the US and other signatories who want to safeguard the accord are actually narrowing.
Speaking to reporters before a meeting of EU foreign ministers Monday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian seemed to indicate Paris was seeking agreement to up sanctions on Iran.
“We are absolutely determined to ensure that the Vienna agreements are upheld, and we must take strong action in this respect. We must not however exclude Iran’s responsibility in ballistic missile proliferation and its highly questionable role throughout the Middle East region,” he said.
Also on Tuesday, Netanyahu phoned Merkel to congratulate her on forming a new government. The two agreed that the traditional government to government meeting would be held in the coming months in Jerusalem, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
Netanyahu also spoke over the phone with German Foreign Minister Heiku Maas and congratulated him on his new position. The pair agreed that Maas would visit Israel in the near future in preparation for Merkel’s visit.