To maintain the global multilateral approach, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany and China would support the existing nuclear accord with Iran, in a two-day visit to Beijing.
The Iran agreement is not perfect, but the alternatives are more uncertain, Merkel said at a joint press conference with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang yesterday. Sanctions might drive some European companies away from doing business with Iran, which leaves room for other countries to step in, she added, hinting at China's potential increased involvement with Iran. Li warned that ending the agreement with Tehran "will not just impact Iran, but also have a negative impact on [the ability] to solve other hot international issues through peaceful negotiations."
Merkel looks to her carefully nurtured relationship with China over her 12 years as chancellor. No Western leader has visited Beijing as often as Merkel, who will be undertaking her 11th trip to the country. In China, she is viewed not only as the main point of contact for Europe, but, crucially, also as a reliable interlocutor, an antithesis of the mercurial Trump.
Merkel's remarks came after Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei set out a series of conditions for European powers if they want Tehran to stay in a nuclear deal after the U.S. exit, including steps by European banks to safeguard trade with Tehran and guaranteeing Iranian oil sales.
"European banks should safeguard trade with the Islamic Republic. We do not want to start a fight with these three countries [France, Germany and Britain] but we don't trust them either," Iranian Supreme Leader was quoted as saying by his website, as reported by Reuters. He also said European powers must promise they would not seek new negotiations on Iran's ballistic missile program and regional Middle East activities, adding: "Europe should fully guarantee Iran's oil sales. In case Americans can damage our oil sales, Europeans should make up for that and buy Iranian oil." He warned that if the Europeans did not meet these demands, Iran would resume its enrichment of uranium, halted under the deal to minimize the risk of Tehran developing the means to build nuclear weapons.
U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out earlier this month from the 2015 nuclear deal that had lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs to its nuclear program. European powers see the accord as the best chance of stopping Tehran acquiring a nuclear weapon and have intensified efforts to save it. Meanwhile, Germany's Foreign Affairs Minister Heiko Maas said that the U.S. and European countries remain "a long way from a compromise" on a new Iran nuclear deal, while highlighting the "great solidarity" of the 2015 deal's European signatories and the European Union in continuing to enforce that agreement while negotiating with Iran on an expanded deal. "We are still a long way from a compromise, we take two completely different paths," Maas told reporters after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
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