Iran's Zarif forced to ask German military for help to refuel his official jet

German supplies refuse to fill-up Iranian airplane as US sanctions battle unfolded in Munich

Mohammad Zarif - Iran's foreign minister Vahid Salemi / AP Photo
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Iran’s foreign minister sought help to refuel his official jet from the German military after private companies operating at Munich airport refused to deal with Tehran citing US sanctions repercussions.

German media reports said the aircraft carrying Mohammad Javad Zarif to the German city for a security conference needed special handling so the foreign minister could leave after his visit. The incident took place while HR McMaster, the US National Security Adviser, used his own visit to Munich to warn against an Iranian airline implicated in supplying arms to the Syrian regime from Iran.

Munich airport authorities told Mr Zarif’s department he could either fly in with a sufficient reserve of fuel for his trip to Munich, in the southern state of Bavaria, or fly to the nearby Austrian capital of Vienna, where the suppliers did not take the same precautionary view.

Suddeutsche Zeitung said Mr Zarif had planned to travel to Moscow after leaving the security conference

Iranian officials rejected the choices and instead requested the conference organiser, Wolfgang Ischinger, who was previously Germany's ambassador to the US, lobby the German government to assist their plans. Germany’s defence ministry agreed to take over the refuelling a day before Mr Zarif's arrival.

In a robust address to the conference, Mr McMaster decried the European rush to invest in Iran following the 2015 accord that eased sanctions over its nuclear programme.

“Now is also the time to address serious flaws in the Iran deal and counter Iran’s destabilising activities, including its development and proliferation of missiles—and its support for terrorist proxies and militias that fuel destructive conflicts across the greater Middle East,” the US national security adviser said. “The Iranian regime foments this violence with support from commercial entities affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or IRGC—including Mahan Air, which lands right here in Munich Airport.”

In addition to citing Mahan Air, a subsidiary of the state airline, Mr McMaster went on to say that corporations dealing with Iran "might as well cut the IRGC a cheque" to fund its killing activities in the Middle East.

President Donald Trump has called the 2015 accord the “worst deal ever” and has said Washington will walk away from its terms in the next few months. European diplomats are reported to be working on an "add-on" proposal that would put new curbs on Iran ahead of a summit of State Department officials and their counterparts in Berlin next month. The New York Times reported that the supplementary agreement would place new limits on Iranian missile testing, strengthen inspections at Iranian military bases and roll forward so-called sunset clauses in the pact.

Mr Zarif is not the only Iranian official embarrassed on a trip to Europe. Diplomats including the Swedish foreign minister walked out when Alireza Avaei, the justice minister address the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday. Mr Avaei has been subject to an EU travel ban and other sanctions since 2011. Sending him to the annual meeting provoked outrage among many delegations  and Margot Wallstrom led a walk out.