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Merkel ‘disappointed’ by Iranian statements on Israel

German chancellor also calls on Tehran to help end the civil war in Syria

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (AFP/John Macdougall)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (AFP/John Macdougall)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday called out Iran for failing to change its hostile attitude toward the State of Israel and said she would welcome Iranian efforts to end Syria’s raging civil war.

“I think Iran has a lot of influence over what happens in Syria,” Merkel said at a news conference in Berlin, according to Reuters. “Everyone is welcome to participate constructively in the negotiations.”

The German chancellor went on to state that she was “disappointed” by Iran’s pugnacious approach to the Jewish state.

“It is not acceptable how Iran continues to talk about Israel,” Merkel said, according to Reuters. “It is a disappointment that there has been no change as far as the recognition of Israel goes.”

Merkel’s statements reflected Europe’s shifting stance toward Iran following the signing of a nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers last month. The deal aims to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

Iran is considered to be the strongest supporter of the Syrian regime and its president, Bashar Assad, who has been battling rebels seeking to oust him for more than four years, in a bloody civil conflict that has created more than 3.5 million refugees, and left at least 220,000 dead, according to the UN.

On Saturday, the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper reported that Iran has been working with the Syrian regime to clear hundreds of thousands of Sunni Muslim residents from Damascus in an effort to alter the demographic makeup of the city. According to the report, the overwhelmingly Shiite Iran was helping the Syrian regime to raze homes in the relatively plush Mezzeh neighborhood, pushing out the Sunni residents in an effort to cement local support for the regime.

Also on Saturday, an aide to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed claims by British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond that Tehran had changed its stance on Israel, insisting that fighting the “illegal Zionist regime” is an ongoing policy of the Islamic Republic, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

“[The] fight against the illegal Zionist regime is one of the immutable policies of Iran, which has always been maintained,” said Seyed Mahmoud Nabavi, the ayatollah’s aide.

Hammond was in Iran last week for the reopening of the British Embassy in Tehran, and said that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had indicated a “more nuanced approach” to Israel’s existence. Hammond said Khamenei’s “revolutionary sloganizing” should be distinguished from “what Iran actually does in the conduct of its foreign policy.”

Nabavi said Hammond’s comments were “incorrect, since one of the driving goals of the Islamic Revolution has been the campaign against the arrogant powers,” according to Fars.

“We haven’t recognized the Zionist regime since the beginning of the Islamic Revolution and such a policy will continue,” Nabavi added.

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