Netanyahu discusses Iran with Merkel, Gaza with Macron
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Netanyahu discusses Iran with Merkel, Gaza with Macron

Phone calls with European leaders come after US president withdraws from nuclear deal, amid violent clashes on border with Strip

Illustrative: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking on the phone at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, April 28, 2014. (Amos Ben Gershon/GPO)
Illustrative: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking on the phone at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, April 28, 2014. (Amos Ben Gershon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday night in talks that focused on Iran and the violence on the Gaza-Israel border, respectively.

According to a readout from the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu told Merkel “opportunities were created” as a result of US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal last week, to “restrain Iran’s aggression and prevent its military nuclearization.”

Netanyahu also thanked Merkel for her “condemnation of Iranian aggression and support for Israel’s right to defend its sovereignty.”

Merkel had slammed Tehran last week after a barrage of missiles were fired at the Golan Heights from Syria in an attack that Israel blamed on Iranian troops. Berlin called the attack a “serious provocation that we strongly condemn.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak at a press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin on February 16, 2016 after a joint cabinet meeting. (AFP /Odd Andersen)

The Netanyahu-Merkel call came as Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met his French, British and German counterparts in Brussels. The three European signatories to the landmark 2015 deal are leading international efforts to preserve it after Trump withdrew and reimposed sanctions lifted under the accord.

The EU has said it will stick to the deal as long as Iran does, but the Islamic republic has warned it is ready to resume “industrial-scale” uranium enrichment if it is not satisfied. Tehran has said it wants guarantees that the economic benefits the deal brought will continue if it is to stick with it and Zarif warned he expected to see progress “within the next few weeks.”

Netanyahu also spoke to Macron on Tuesday to defend Israel’s response to violent protests on the Gaza border, the premier’s office said.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a joint news conference with New Zealand’s prime minister at the Elysee Palace in Paris on April 16, 2018. (AFP Photo/Pool/Charles Platiau)

The prime minister “said Israel will uphold its security interests and emphasized that no country would let others threaten its sovereignty,” the statement said.

The call came amid an outcry by numerous countries over violence on the Gaza border in which dozens of Palestinians were killed during clashes with the Israeli army.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said that 60 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 were wounded on Monday amid the biggest riots and rallies in a weeks-long campaign of protests against Israel, known collectively as the “March of Return.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Netanyahu told US television that troops were left with no choice but to use lethal force during protests on Monday, and responsibility for the deaths lay entirely with the Hamas terrorist group that runs the Gaza Strip.

The US government has also placed the blame for the violence with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.

The IDF said Hamas and other terror groups had used the protests as cover to carry out attacks against Israel, including shooting at troops and trying to cross the border fence. It said 24 of those killed belonged to the Hamas or Islamic Jihad terror groups.

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