German minister: Ending Iran deal would be setback for curbing nuclear arms

Reuters – German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said a move by the United States to abandon the Iranian nuclear deal would discourage other powers such as North Korea from participating in international negotiations to end their own nuclear programs.

Gabriel, speaking on the sidelines of a United Nations meeting, said world powers had every interest in maintaining the 2015 deal and much work would be needed in coming weeks to ensure it remained in force.

“It’s an almost tragic situation where the only existing agreement to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons is in jeopardy at a time when we are seeing other countries like North Korea acquiring nuclear weapons and we need such processes more than ever,” Gabriel said.

The United States said on Wednesday it is weighing whether its interests were served by the deal under which Tehran agreed to restrict its nuclear program in return for the loosening of economic sanctions that have crippled its economy.

Iran said it did not expect Washington to abandon the agreement.

Germany helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal along with Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

U.S. President Donald Trump has called the 2015 deal “an embarrassment” but it is supported by the other major powers that negotiated it. Its collapse could trigger a regional arms race.

Gabriel told reporters in New York he agreed with U.S. officials that Iran had not changed its behavior in the Middle East after the agreement was reached – a matter that required attention, but not as part of the nuclear agreement.

“I am convinced that neither the volatile and charged situation in the region, nor Iran’s behavior will improve if the nuclear agreement goes out of force,” he said. A recording of his remarks was provided to Reuters by the ministry.

Any move by Washington to cancel the agreement would be a “terrible signal” for all other efforts to use diplomacy to halt nuclear weapons programs, such as those of North Korea.

“Because no one has the impression anymore that international negotiations are worth and one has to assume that such an agreement can be canceled after a short time,” he said.

Gabriel said Trump had received no support for his position.

Trump must decide by Oct. 15 whether to certify that Iran is complying with the pact. If he does not, Congress has 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions waived under the accord.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal in Berlin; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg