TEL AVIV – Iran’s foreign minister and parliament speaker cancelled meetings with Germany’s vice chancellor after he said that Tehran must recognize Israel in order to establish normal relations with Berlin, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported on Tuesday.
Sigmar Gabriel (pictured), who also serves as economy minister, arrived in Tehran on Sunday as part of Germany’s efforts to boost trade ties with the Islamic Republic following the easing of sanctions resulting from the U.S.-led nuclear deal.
Gabriel told Der Spiegel ahead of his two-day visit that Germany would have full relations with Iran when the latter acknowledges Israel’s right to exist.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani subsequently snubbed Gabriel, the Fars News Agency reported.
Iran’s government spokesman Mohammad Baqer Nobakht said on Tuesday: “No country can set preconditions for Iran. We live with our beliefs. Tehran will never recognize Israel.”
However, according to the report, Nobakht said Gabriel had told him the media had misconstrued his comments.
“When Gabriel came to Iran, I asked him why he has said such a thing while he is one of the pioneering officials who came to Iran after the nuclear deal? He clearly said that they (the media) had distorted his comments. He said that he has come to Iran now without any precondition and that they respect Iran’s views,” said Mohammad Baqer Nobakht.
Iran’s judiciary chief on Tuesday reacted to Gabriel’s comments in Der Spiegel by saying that he would have barred Gabriel from visiting the country if it was within his power.
“The German economy minister has made incorrect and illogical comments and said that if Iran wants to open the way for trade interactions, it should recognize Israel. Apparently, he is asleep and doesn’t know that Iran has tolerated abundant pressures for the sake of its beliefs for over 30 years to resist against such demands,” said Iran’s judiciary chief Sadeq Amoli Larijani, according to the Fars News Agency.
“Were I in the place of the government and the foreign minister, I would not allow this minister to visit Iran,” he added.
Gabriel met with some 120 business representatives and his Iranian counterpart.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said it would never forsake its support of the Palestinians, according to the official Iranian news outlet Press TV.
“Ties between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Germany are based on mutual respect and interests, and no precondition would be acceptable in this regard,” Bahram Qasemi, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said.
“The Islamic Republic considers defending the rights of the people of Palestine to be a fixed plank of its foreign policy and will never and under no circumstances forsake the Palestinian cause,” Qasemi said.
Gabriel, who met with his Iranian counterpart and over a hundred other business representatives, said that Germany supports Iran’s push to join the World Trade Organization.
Hoping to restore its status as one of Iran’s primary trading partners, Germany is one of the first countries to send a delegation to Tehran to explore post-sanction ties.