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Germany's economy minister woos Tehran on trade visit

Germany's Sigmar Gabriel has said that Berlin wants to help Iran regain its economic footing. But he warned that patience was needed in view of the country's long political isolation.

Iran PK Sigmar Gabriel (Reuters/H. Hanschke )

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Monday that Berlin wanted to give Iran assistance in restoring international relations after a long period in which the Islamic Republic was ostracized from the global market.

"Our aim is to support the current government with its path to opening up to the world," he said in Tehran while on a two-day visit that is meant to rebuild bilateral trade.

He also added that he considered Iran to be a reliable credit partner that usually kept agreements.

At the same time, however, he urged patience, saying it would take time to restore trade relations.

"When [a country] has lived isolated from the global market for 10, 15 years, economic success will not come overnight," he said.

Gabriel made his remarks while opening a business forum in the Iranian capital that was attended by more than 100 German businesspeople along with their Iranian counterparts.

Sigmar Gabriel in the plane to Iran

Gabriel is not a welcome guest for all Iranians: "Don't let this friend of Zionists enter Iran," says this rightist newspaper

International courtships

Gabriel's visit comes as almost all Western countries step up efforts to re-establish trade ties with Iran after the nuclear deal signed on 14 July 2015. The deal, which obliges Iran to restrict its contentious nuclear program, has led to a removal of most international sanctions imposed amid fears that Tehran was planning to build atomic weapons.

However, remaining US sanctions and political concerns have so far put a dampener on Iran's economic recovery, with European banks reluctant to provide loans as long as any sanctions remain in place.

Nonetheless, figures provided by the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce show that trade between Germany and Iran reached a volume of 1.5 billion euros ($1.69 billion) between January and July 2016. This represents an increase of 8 percent over the previous year, but is less than was hoped for.

Germany has commercial and cultural ties with the Islamic Republic going back to the 19th century.

Besides talking about trade, Gabriel, who is also Germany's vice chancellor, also brought up the topic of the Syrian conflict, urging Tehran, which supports the embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad, to play its role in ending "this terrible war."

He said he would also be discussing Israel and legal state issues at meetings with Iran's leaders.

tj/kl (dpa, Reuters)

 

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