Germany criticises Russia’s decision to sell Iran missiles

Bulgarian S-300 system. Military parade, 2009. [KGG1951/Wikimedia]

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke out yesterday (14 April) against Russia’s decision to prepare to deliver missile systems to Iran, before a meeting of G7 foreign ministers in the northern German city of Lübeck.

The officials were protected by 3,500 police, many clad in riot gear and equipped with water canon, amid fears of another anti-capitalist rally like the violence that broke out in Frankfurt last month in front of the European Central Bank.

“We’re in the middle of a process,” Steinmeier told reporters, referring to Iran. “I’ve told some US senators that they should not now try to unnecessarily impede further negotiations. But I’ll also say that it is also too early to talk about rewards at this stage.”

The Kremlin confirmed on Tuesday that an oil-for-goods barter deal between Russia and Iran was being implemented and officials said the road was clear for Moscow to supply an advanced S-300 anti-missile system to Tehran.

>> Read: Russia to deliver missiles to Iran, and open oil-for-goods business

The latest statements from Moscow coincide with politically sensitive negotiations on a final accord between Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany on Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme.

Steinmeier said the preliminary deal agreed to by Iran and the six powers was a “good basis” on which to try and draw up a final deal by 30 June.

“Then we’ll be able to say how the relationships not only between those involved in negotiations, but also (how) economic relationships between Iran and Europe can develop further.”

Russia moved quickly to cement ties with Iran after an interim deal was reached on curbing the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme in exchange for removing economic sanctions. President Vladimir Putin lifted a self-imposed ban on delivering the air defence system to Iran.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was not invited to the foreign ministers’ meeting in Lübeck.

Speaking at an event with German students, Steinmeier said many international conflicts could not be solved without Russian involvement, so he did not want Russia to be excluded. But Moscow needed to move towards solving the Ukraine crisis before it could be included in such meetings again, he said.

“I have no interest in Russia being permanently isolated — we know from history that someone who is isolated can develop more dangerously than someone who is not,” he said.

German authorities were eager to prevent a repeat of the violence that marred the opening of the new ECB headquarters on March 18. That left 94 police officers injured by stones, and seven police cars set on fire.

Police said around 1,800 protestors from the group “Stop G7” were in Lübeck. Some shops closed in the afternoon.

“Fight war. Smash capitalism,” read one banner.

Nerves in Germany are running high before the G7 summit at an isolated castle in the Bavarian Alps on 7-8 June.

Asked to comment on Russia’s decision to resume the sale of S-300 missiles to Iran, Commission spokesperson Catherine Ray said this was not a new issue.

“Just as in the past, we are again concerned because of this decision. Having said this, the issue does not affect the negotiations regarding the Iran nuclear program.”

A raft of global sanctions imposed on Iran over its alleged nuclear activities will be lifted over time, if the Islamic Republic sticks to the terms of a final deal with the global powers reached on 2 April after 12 years of brinkmanship, threats and confrontation.

>> Read: Nuclear sanctions on Iran to be lifted if it meets deal

The framework is contingent on reaching an agreement by 30 June. All sanctions on Iran remain in place until a final deal, which world powers hope will make it virtually impossible for Iran to make nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian program.

Many details still need to be worked out. Diplomats close to the negotiations said the deal was fragile. It could not be ruled out that the understandings reached could collapse between now and 30 June. Experts believe it will be much harder to reach a final deal than it was to agree the framework accord.

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