German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she agreed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a meeting on Monday that Iran’s activities in the Middle East are a concern, particularly for Israel’s security.
“We agree that the question of Iran’s regional influence is worrying, especially for Israel’s security,” Chancellor Merkel told a joint news conference with PM Netanyahu after a meeting in Berlin.
The German leader said she agrees that Iranian troops should be removed from Syria, especially from the area close to the Israeli border on the Golan Heights.
After a 90-minute meeting, Merkel said at a press conference with Netanyahu that we “will exert our influence in such a way that Iran is pushed out of this region,” and that Berlin will take a “very close look at Iran’s activities in the region and seek to contain it.”
PM Netanyahu explained that ousting Iran from Syria is in Germany’s interest as well, because the religious conflagration it intends to foment in the region will cause more refugees to flee to Europe.
“Iran wants to increase the number of militia to 80,000 and to basically conduct a religious campaign in largely Sunni Syria – which is 96 percent Sunni – to try to convert the Sunni. This will inflame another religious war, this time a religious war inside Syria, and the consequences would be many, many more refugees, and you know exactly where they will come,” he said.
On the Iranian nuclear deal, Merkel acknowledged that the secret archives Israel provided to Germany and the IAEA were important and should be investigated, but would not cause her country to withdraw from the deal.
“Germany did not cancel this agreement, and together with other European partners, we stand by it,” she said.
Chancellor Merkel said they also discussed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and she stressed the need for a two-state solution. “There isn’t agreement on all points. But we’re partners, we’re friends,” she added.
Chancellor Merkel and her government will visit Yerushalayim in October, she said.
Meanwhile, a senior Iranian general has denied reports that Iranian forces will be withdrawing from Syria in the near term as part of ceasefire arrangements.
“Unlike the American military forces and the regional reactionaries, the Iranian advisors are present in Syria at the request of the Syrian government and people,” Brig.-Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, an advisor to the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, was quoted by the Tasnim news agency on Sunday.
Jazayeri dismissed the reports as mere propaganda spread by Israel.
Russia has reportedly given Israel assurances that the Iranians and Hezbollah will at least be prevented from maintaining forces in southern Syria near the border with Israel.
Last Thursday, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Iranian forces were preparing to withdraw from the area.