August 1, 2019 / 2:08 AM / a month ago

U.S. envoy urges Germany to take global role after Hormuz reluctance

BERLIN (Reuters) - The U.S. ambassador to Germany called on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government on Thursday to take on a global responsibility to match its economic might after Berlin showed reluctance to join a naval mission in the Strait of Hormuz.

FILE PHOTO - Richard Grenell U.S. Ambassador to Germany attends the "Rally for Equal Rights at the United Nations (Protesting Anti-Israeli Bias)" aside of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Thursday reiterated that Germany would not participate in a planned U.S.-led naval mission to the Strait of Hormuz, close to Iran.

He says Berlin wants to ease tensions with Iran and everything should be done to avoid an escalation.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday there had been no formal request for the military alliance to launch a mission in the Strait of Hormuz.

However, the U.S. Embassy in Berlin on Tuesday said it had formally asked Germany to join France and Britain to help secure the Strait and “combat Iranian aggression”.

Ambassador Richard Grenell, who has courted controversy since arriving in Berlin last year with some outspoken views, told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper that Germany had a duty to fulfil.

“Germany is the biggest economic power in Europe. This success brings global responsibilities,” he said.

The paper said the envoy made clear that U.S. President Donald Trump was not happy Germany wanted to stay out of the conflict and appealed to the government’s conscience.

“America has sacrificed a lot to help Germany remain part of the West,” Grenell told the newspaper, adding Americans were paying huge sums for 34,000 soldiers to be stationed in Germany.

On the front line of the Cold War, West Germany was one of the United States’ closest allies, embraced as a bulwark against communism after the World War Two defeat of Nazi rule.

Yet relations have soured since Trump took office due to disagreements on a range of issues from Iran to defence spending, trade tariffs and the NordStream 2 gas pipeline.

A U.S. Senate committee on Wednesday passed a bill to slap sanctions on companies, including several German firms, and individuals involved in building the NordStream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.

Frictions have worsened between the United States and Iran since Washington withdrew from an international nuclear deal with Tehran last year. European states, including Germany, are trying to keep the deal alive.

“To join the American position, which in our view is part of a strategy of maximum pressure, has never been the right path for us and will not be in the future,” Maas told Germany’s ZDF television.

Washington on Wednesday imposed sanctions on the Iranian foreign minister, blocking any property or interests he has in the United States.

Additional reporting by Riham Alkoussa; Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Frances Kerry and Andrew Cawthorne

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