Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in Israel Sunday, meeting with Israeli leaders. She called on Iran to return to negotiations on a new nuclear deal. Under her leadership, Israel and Germany have had close relations including cooperation on Iran and its nuclear program. The visit comes as Iran says it has 120 kilograms of enriched uranium.
The trip marked the eighth time that Germany’s Angela Merkel had traveled to Israel since she became chancellor 16 years ago. And in her last official visit, the Israeli Cabinet held a special session in her honor. Under her leadership, Germany has become Israel’s closest friend in Europe with close cooperation on all issues including Iran.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett used the occasion to warn the world that Iran is moving closer to a nuclear bomb.
He said that Iran’s nuclear program is at its most advanced point ever,” adding, “The world waits, the Iranians delay, and the centrifuges spin.”
Merkel said that Israel’s security will always be important to Germany, no matter who leads Germany. She also urged Iran to return to negotiations on a future nuclear deal. Her visit came as Iranian officials announced they had enriched 120 kilograms of uranium to 20 percent. Iran has maintained its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
The original 2015 agreement among Iran, Germany, China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), provided Iran with relief from sanctions in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.
Israel opposed the agreement, saying it could pave the way for Iran to become a nuclear power eventually. And Israeli officials welcomed the 2018 decision by then-U.S. President Donald Trump to leave the deal. Since then, they say, Iran has moved forward on getting a bomb and is closer than ever.
Chancellor Merkel also visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial.
Merkel said that she considers it a stroke of good fortune given to us by history that after the crimes against humanity that were the Shoah, it has been possible to reset and reestablish relations between Germany and Israel to the extent that we have done.
She said that the situation with Iran is difficult but that without an agreement with Tehran, it will be even more difficult. Merkel’s meeting with Bennett followed talks between the Israeli leader and U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington in August.
Biden has offered to rejoin the deal if Iran returns to full compliance with its nuclear provisions. The U.S. and Iran have held indirect talks about rejoining the accord if Tehran returns to full compliance with its nuclear terms. Talks, however, have stalled.