Germany: Trump's Iraq sanctions threat 'not helpful'

Heiko Maas says EU foreign ministers should 'quickly agree common approach' amid soaring Middle East tensions.

    German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urges European powers to work to save the 2015 nuclear deal [John MacDougall/AFP]
    German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urges European powers to work to save the 2015 nuclear deal [John MacDougall/AFP]

    Donald Trump's threat of sanctions on Iraq was "not very helpful", Germany's foreign minister said on Monday.

    The United States president had warned Baghdad could be hit by sanctions "like they've never seen before" if US forces were forced to leave.

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    "I don't think it works to convince Iraq with threats, but with arguments," Heiko Maas told Deutschlandfunk public radio.

    Friday's targeted killing of Qassem Soleimani, one of Iran's leading military figures, in a US air strike in Iraq, has led the country's parliament to urge the removal of all foreign troops - a move aimed at the estimated 5,000 US troops in Iraq as part of the international anti-ISIL (ISIS) coalition.

    Maas said Germany, the United Kingdom and France would discuss the Iran nuclear deal on Monday and would react this week to Tehran's recent announcements.

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    Iran said on Sunday it would abandon limitations on enriching uranium, taking a further step back from commitments to a 2015 nuclear deal with six major powers.

    The "E3" group of countries - France, Britain and Germany - have all called on Iran to refrain from any retaliation to the US killing one of its top military commanders, and urged Tehran to return to the terms of the JCPOA 2015 nuclear deal agreed with world powers - a landmark diplomatic agreement from which Trump unilaterally withdrew the US in 2018.

    The three countries also highlighted the importance of de-escalating tensions in Iraq and Iran, and reaffirmed their determination to fight ISIL.

    "We reaffirm our commitment to continuing the fight against Islamic State, which remains a priority. It is essential that we keep the coalition, in this regard. We call on the Iraqi authorities to continue to supply the necessary support to the coalition," the E3 group said in a statement on Monday.

    "We are ready to continue talks with all parties in order to contribute to de-escalating tensions and re-establishing stability in the region," added the E3 group.

    There are grave fears for the future of the nuclear deal.

    "We will definitely talk to Iran again. What has been announced is, however, not consistent with the agreement," Maas said.

    "[The situation] has not got easier, and this could be the first step to the end of this agreement, which would be a big loss so we will weigh this up very, very responsibly now."

    Europe now has an important role in view of the menacing escalation of the conflict between the United States and Iran

    Heiko Maas, German foreign minister

    Germany's foreign minister has also proposed bringing forward a regular meeting with counterparts from other European Union countries amid escalating tensions in the Middle East.

    "Europe now has an important role in view of the menacing escalation of the conflict between the United States and Iran," Maas said in a statement on Sunday. EU foreign ministers should "quickly agree on a common approach", he added.

    Europe has reliable channels of communication to all sides that should be used "to the full extent" in the current situation, Maas said.

    Germany has about 130 soldiers in Iraq as part of an international assistance and training mission. The German defence ministry said on Sunday that a regular rotation of troops replacing some of those currently in Iraq had been suspended.

    Maas said Germany stood ready to continue to provide assistance in Iraq "if it is requested and the situation allows it", adding that the fight there against ISIL is not over.

    "In order to discuss this with our international partners there should be a meeting of the anti-IS coalition as soon as possible," he said.

    Maas said he had spoken with his counterparts in France, Britain, Italy and the EU, as well as the head of NATO and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    Earlier on Sunday, the foreign ministry confirmed that the charge d'affaires of the German embassy in Tehran had met Iranian foreign ministry officials, but provided no details.

    Trump, meanwhile, spoke with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday, discussing the current situation in Iraq and Iran, the White House said in a statement.

    The release offered few details of the specifics of the call, noting only that the two leaders "reaffirmed the close alliance between the two countries".

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies