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Too early to reward Iran with S-300 missiles, German FM says

Frank-Walter Steinmeier calls of Moscow, US lawmakers to let nuclear talks continue before making any moves

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks to journalists at the G7 foreign ministers' meeting in Luebeck, northern Germany, on April 14, 2015. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL)
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks to journalists at the G7 foreign ministers' meeting in Luebeck, northern Germany, on April 14, 2015. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL)

It is still too early to reward Iran for a landmark pact with world powers over its nuclear program, Germany’s foreign minister said Tuesday, speaking out a day after Moscow said it would lift a ban on selling an advanced air defense system to Tehran.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier also panned American legislators for attempting to intervene in negotiations between world powers and Iran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, while speaking to reporters at a G-7 meeting of top diplomats in Luebeck, Germany.

“We’re in the middle of a process,” Steinmeier said, according to Reuters. “I’ve told some US senators that they should not now try to unnecessarily impede further negotiations. But I’ll also say that it is also too early to talk about rewards at this stage.”

On Monday, the Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin had decided to lift a five-year ban on delivery of the S-300 missile system, which would give the Islamic Republic’s military a strong deterrent against any air attack.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the preliminary agreement on settling the Iranian nuclear standoff struck earlier this month made the S-300 ban unnecessary.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, later confirmed statements by a Russian diplomat that Russia was already supplying Iran with various goods in exchange for oil. Peskov said this trade was not barred under the sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council.

The moves raised alarm bells in Israel and the US, which said a Russian-Iranian barter deal would raise serious concerns and could interfere with sanctions that the United States and other Western nations imposed on Iran over its nuclear program.

Jerusalem has long lobbied against Russia selling Iran the S-300 system, which it fears could impede Israel’s use of airspace in the region.

Putin discussed his decision in a phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, telling him that Israel shouldn’t be worried about the “purely defensive” weapon.

Steinmeier said he hoped that the “constructive” spirit which helped broker a preliminary deal with Iran would prevail.

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s arrival in Luebeck was delayed by a day as he met with lawmakers in Washington on Tuesday to press for time to reach a robust final deal with Iran.

There is a June 30 deadline for a final deal and Steinmeier said that’s when it will be possible to say how economic relations with Iran would develop.

Aside from Iran, the G-7’s top diplomats will discuss the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, and efforts to improve maritime security.

Steinmeier said he hoped Russia might be brought back into what was previously the G-8, because this would make it easier to resolve other crises around the world. Moscow was ejected from the group last year over its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Steinmeier said he doubted that any of the current conflicts would be solved before Germany hosts the G-7 heads of government for a summit in June.

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