Germany’s foreign minister sought to ease concerns in Israel over a new nuclear deal with Iran as she met officials in Tel Aviv and Ramallah to discuss the long-stalled Arab-Israel peace process.
Annalena Baerbock said Israel’s security was central to the talks in Vienna on how to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that set tight limits on Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief. The deal fell apart in 2018 as then-US president Donald Trump exited the arrangement and placed sanctions on Iran.
“I am convinced that a full restoration of the JCPOA will secure the whole area, that includes Israel, or else we would not hold those talks,” Ms Baerbock said at a press conference with her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid on Thursday.
“We are fully committed because we want to do everything so that with that treaty Israel’s security is guaranteed.”
Mr Lapid said he had presented Ms Baerbock with Israel’s position “that a nuclear Iran endangers not only Israel but the entire world”. He said Iran was “an exporter of terror from Yemen to Buenos Aires” and that the agreement must take into account its regional aggression.
Reviving the peace process
Ms Baerbock is visiting the Middle East to discuss the long-stalled Arab-Israeli peace process and met officials from both sides, including separate sit-downs with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Before her visit, the German Foreign Ministry said the country's new government was “not letting up in its commitment to peace and security for the people in the region”.
Ms Baerbock said her decision to make her first official trip a visit to Israel was made “very consciously”.
During the visit to Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, she met Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al Maliki, who asked Germany, which supports the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, to pressurise Israel to enter peace talks.
“Israeli Prime Minister [Naftali] Bennett has refused to accept the two-state solution as a viable solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict … the problem is that there is no partner on the Israeli side. We hope that Germany … could really convince Israel to sit with us to negotiate and to commit itself to a peaceful political negotiation with the Palestinians,” Mr Maliki said.
Ms Baerbock was also due to meet Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.
Her visit comes only days after Amnesty International released a report compiled over four years accusing Israel of a crime against humanity in its treatment of Palestinians and criticising other nations for emboldening a regime committing apartheid. Israel has rejected the report’s findings.
Ms Baerbock said she had raised the report's accusations of human rights abuse with Israeli authorities and called Amnesty a “trusted partner” of the German government, although she said she did not agree with some of the assertions made.
“Reports of human rights violations must and should be a top priority for any government and should be taken seriously and that is why I raised this here in Israel,” she said.
“But we do not adopt every analysis ... delegitimisation of Israel is a red line for us.”
She said the focus should be “to do everything we can to ensure that Israel and the Palestinian representatives once again work together”.
While in Israel, Ms Baerbock visited the Yad Vashem holocaust museum and raised the need to combat rising anti-Semitism.
“It is our responsibility to raise our voice against anti-Semitism, against hatred and intentions of hatred, against exclusion and violence so that such a crime against humanity will never be repeated and children will have a future,” she said.
Ms Baerbock travels on to Jordan before arriving in Egypt on Saturday.