German Foreign Minister: Preserve Nuclear Deal, but Confront Iran About Its Role in Middle East

'We want to speak with Iran about its role in the region, which is more than problematic,' Sigmar Gabriel says, citing its influence in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU3-Iran meeting at EEAS headquarters in Brussels, January 11, 2018.
Virginia Mayo/AP

Europe and the United States should confront Tehran about its ballistic weapons program and its role in Syrias civil war but a 2015 deal to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb must be preserved, Germanys foreign minister said on Thursday.

Speaking before a meeting with his counterparts from Iran, Britain and France and the European Union, Sigmar Gabriel said the United States was right to address concerns about Irans strategy in the Middle East.

But he said: We should separate two things from each other: we want to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran... and the difficult role Iran has in the region.

We want to speak with Iran about its role in the region, which is more than problematic, he said, citing Irans influence in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.

On the eve of a deadline for U.S. President Donald Trump to decide whether to reimpose oil sanctions lifted under the agreement, the EUs top diplomat Federica Mogherini convened the meeting with the European powers to show support for the nuclear deal in a message to Washington, diplomats and officials said.

Tehran has always denied seeking nuclear arms.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, in a statement released before the start of the meeting in Brussels, called the nuclear deal a crucial agreement that makes the world safer.

Trumps October decision not to certify Irans compliance with the nuclear deal has put Washington at odds with all other signatories of the accord - Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union.

European allies have warned of a split with the United States over the nuclear agreement and say if Washington reimposes sanctions on Iran, the pact could fall apart.

Trump must decide by mid-January whether to continue waiving U.S. sanctions on Irans oil exports under the terms of the pact. The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday the Trump administration was expected to decide on Friday.

The decision comes as Irans government deals with protests over economic hardships and corruption that are linked to frustration among younger Iranians who hoped to see more benefits from the lifting of sanctions.