Iran Rejects Germany's Call to Improve Ties With Israel

The Islamic Republic says it will discuss the 'threats of the Zionist regime and the roots of the crises in the region' with Germany.

Iran's foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham
Iran's foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham speaks to the media during the weekly press conference in Tehran, on November 5, 2013. AFP

Iran rejected Monday a call by Germany to improve ties with Israel in order to advance economic relations with Western powers.

"You can't have a good economic relationship with Germany in the long-term if we don't discuss such issues too and try to move them along," Sigmar Gabriel, Germany's vice chancellor and economy minister, told a gathering of German and Iranian business people in Tehran on Sunday.

"Questioning this state's (Israel's) right to existence is something that we Germans cannot accept," he said, adding that now Berlin and Tehran can re-establish closer ties it was necessary to talk about human rights.

His comments drew a quick response from the Foreign Ministry of Iran, whose leaders routinely call for the destruction of the "Zionist regime."

"We have completely different positions on regional issues with Germany, and over the last 35 years we have expressed on many occasions, in negotiations, our positions very clearly," the ministry's spokeswoman, Marzieh Afkham, said, according to the ISNA news agency, as cited in Germany's The Local.

Afkham said such longstanding differences with Germany had not affected other "constructive contacts," AFP reported on Monday. "The main part of the dialogue is about the prospect of bilateral cooperation and naturally we will express our concerns about the region, including existing threats, including threats of the Zionist regime and the roots of the crises in the region."

Gabriel is the first senior figure from a large Western government to visit Iran since it struck a landmark agreement with world powers on its nuclear program last week.

The deal was reached despite strong opposition from Israel, with which Germany has cultivated a close relationship since the end of World War Two.

Reuters contributed to this report.