German FM arrives in Iran as race to save nuclear deal continues

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas arrived in Tehran to discuss ways to reduce tensions between Iran and the United States.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas arrived in Tehran June 10 to meet with Iranian leaders and discuss ways to reduce tensions with the United States amid efforts to save the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

Maas met for two hours with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif before a joint press conference. Maas said the Middle East is currently in a “sensitive and serious situation,” adding that “the increase in tensions in the region is not in anyone’s interests.” Maas visited Jordan, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates before arriving in Tehran. Of his meetings in those countries, he said, “No one wants an increase in tensions and I’m bringing this message from the region to Tehran.”

The United States exited the JCPOA in May 2018 and subsequently reimposed sanctions on Iran. Of the JCPOA, Maas said, “The three European countries support the JCPOA, we want to implement our commitments, we do not want to perform a miracle but we are trying to keep the JCPOA. Therefore we are committed to implementing INSTEX.”

INSTEX, or Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges, was designed to facilitate trade between France, Germany and the United Kingdom with Iran to bypass the reimposed US sanctions. However, despite the January 2019 announcement of its existence, INSTEX has yet to be implemented.

Maas conceded that due to the US exit from the JCPOA, Iran’s anticipated economic returns from the deal “never materialized.” Maas rejected the idea of “less for less,” as in Iran reducing its commitments under the JCPOA in exchange for reduced economic benefits. Iran has already announced it would reduce some of its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA while remaining in the JCPOA.

Regarding the wars in Syria and Yemen, Maas echoed a long-held Iranian position that “the solution is political, not military.” Maas acknowledged Iran’s regional influence and said that it’s in Germany’s “interests and the region’s to find a political solution and suspend military conflicts.” He added that his presence in Tehran does not change Germany’s friendship with the state of Israel.

The United States has called on Iran to renegotiate not just the nuclear deal but other issues as well, including its missile program. To decrease tensions, European countries have urged Iran to be flexible on negotiating with the United States. However, in response to such calls, Zarif said, “We have an agreement [JCPOA] which is the result of two years of negotiations and 12 years of diplomatic work. Did they implement this agreement that they expect to discuss other issues? First they have to show that talking to America has a benefit, then they can request other negotiations.”

Meanwhile, Abbas Mousavi, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, denied that the country has sought to buy the S-400 anti-aircraft system from Russia. Last week, international media reported that Tehran had made such a request from Moscow. Mousavi said that Iranian scientists have already “designed systems" that he implied are better than the S-400.