NEW YORK/BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany will do all it can to persuade the United States not to abandon the Iranian nuclear agreement, whatever the outcome of German elections on Sunday, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Thursday.
Gabriel told reporters any U.S. move to cancel the Iran deal and impose new sanctions on Tehran would discourage powers such as North Korea from negotiating an end to their own nuclear programmes.
Germany would work with the European Union, France, Britain and where possible China and Russia to press Washington to preserve the deal, under which Iran curbed its nuclear work in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, he said on the sidelines of a U.N. meeting in New York.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives are poised to win Sunday’s elections, but it remains unclear if Gabriel’s Social Democrats will play a role in the next coalition government. Gabriel said Germany would maintain its position on the Iran deal, regardless of which parties formed the next government.
U.S. President Donald Trump has called the Iran deal “an embarrassment”, but Germany and other powers who also negotiated it with Iran fear its collapse could trigger a regional arms race.
Trump must decide by Oct. 15 whether to certify that Iran is complying with the pact. If he does not, Congress has 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions waived under the accord.
“Now we will all try to convince the Americans in the remaining weeks ... that calling the agreement into question will not increase security,” Gabriel said.
The United States said on Wednesday it was weighing whether the nuclear accord served its security interests. Iran said it did not expect Washington to abandon it.
Gabriel said Germany would have to consider whether to stick to the agreement even if Washington backed out, but said that could prove “very difficult”, given that the United States would immediately impose new sanctions against Iran.
He said Iran was complying with the deal but businesses had been reluctant to commit to investments and contracts out of concern that the United States could re-impose sanctions under the agreement’s “snapback provision”.
Gabriel said it was “tragic” that the only agreement aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons was being called into question.
In Berlin, German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries said Germany, as one of Iran’s most important trading partners in Europe, had a “great interest” in preserving the agreement.
German exports to Iran rose 23 percent to 1.4 billion euros in the first half of 2017.
The foreign minister said he accepted the U.S. position that Iran’s behaviour in the Middle East had not improved since the deal - but added there was no hope of it changing its ways if the accord fell.
Any collapse would send a “terrible signal” for other diplomatic efforts. “What should motivate countries like North Korea or others to enter into negotiations in the future when the one example of such a deal is being destroyed?” he said.
Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Rene Wagner in Berlin; Editing by Andrew Roche