In the race to secure business deals with Iran, Germany was quickest out of the blocks.
On Sunday, Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel became the first senior Western official to visit Iran following last week’s agreement to ease sanctions on the Islamic nation in exchange for concessions on its nuclear program.
The three-day trip alongside German business leaders was criticized by Jewish groups and opposition lawmakers, who urged Germany to consider its special responsibility toward Israel, which considers the Islamic Republic a threat to its national security. Activists warned that Iran’s human rights record and support for President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria should make Western governments think twice.
Speaking publicly for the first time since his return, Gabriel dismissed that criticism Thursday, saying the earlier sanctions against Iran only had “one concrete reason and that was the nuclear negotiations.”
He said making countries’ human rights situation the basis for economic ties would mean calling into question relations with other nations, such as China.