Germany's Economy Minister and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has defended his visit to Iran, dismissing criticism by pro-Israel lobby groups which are furious at Europe's bid for post-sanction business with Tehran.
Speaking to reporters in Berlin Thursday, Gabriel said Tehran's refusal to recognize Israel is not a legitimate reason to avoid doing business with Iran.
At the beginning of his three-day visit to Iran on Sunday, Gabriel said the refusal to recognize the Tel Aviv regime would harm business relations with his country but the demand was brusquely dismissed by Tehran.
In an obvious retreat, the German minister said sanctions against Iran were based solely on the nuclear issue and now that it is resolved it would be wrong to restrict economic ties with the country, AP reported.
"Refusing to do business with Iran would be seen as failing to reward the country for solving disputes through peaceful means," the news agency quoted him as saying.
On Tuesday, Gabriel said in Isfahan that he had brought the best German companies which enjoyed very good relations with Iran for years and tried to maintain those ties even under the sanctions regime.
The German vice chancellor seconded French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in defending his planned visit to Tehran on Wednesday in order to revive relations.
Fabius said his apparently hawkish line in nuclear negotiations with Iran will not harm business ties with the country.
"Will French firms be penalized? My answer is no because in the past we had an important presence in Iran. Our expertise is excellent in a lot of fields and the Iranians are serious," AFP quoted him as saying.
His visit comes before France's main business lobby group, the Medef, is sending a delegation of about 80 firms to Tehran at the end of September.
French companies are anxious about Iran's retaliation after they withdrew from the country under pressure from the US and pro-Israel lobby groups.
Major carmakers Peugeot and Renault as well as oil company Total pulled out of several serious ventures, leading to significant losses by Iranian entities.
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