August 31, 2015 / 4:11 PM / 5 years ago

Merkel says would welcome constructive Iranian role in any Syria talks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses an annual news conference in Berlin, Germany, August 31, 2015. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany would welcome Iran’s participation in any negotiations aimed at ending the civil war in Syria, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday.

Her comments, at a news conference in Berlin, reflect changing European attitudes towards Iran since it agreed last month to curb its nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief.

Previously, most Western powers were reluctant to see Iran have any role in diplomacy over the Syrian crisis where it is the strongest supporter of President Bashar al-Assad.

Asked whether she thought Iran could play a constructive role, Merkel said: “I think Iran has a lot of influence over what happens in Syria. And everyone is welcome to participate constructively in the negotiations.”

She added that Iran’s opposition to Israel needed to change.

“It is not acceptable how Iran continues to talk about Israel,” Merkel said. “It is a disappointment that there has been no change as far as the recognition of Israel goes.”

Israel opposes the nuclear deal, saying it will not succeed in preventing Iran developing nuclear weapons and will allow the country to exert greater influence in the region.

Iran and Russia support Assad who is opposed by most Western countries.

Last week, Washington repeated its commitment to a political transition “away from” Assad after a U.S. special envoy held talks in Moscow on how to end Syria’s more than four-year civil war.

Reporting by Noah Barkin; Writing by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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