Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday that Iranian meddling in the Middle East could touch off massive new refugee flows to Europe, as they clashed about the future of the nuclear deal with Tehran.
At the start of a three-day European tour dominated by strategic differences on Iran, Netanyahu charged that Tehran has been able to bankroll a growing military presence in countries such as Syria and Yemen because sanctions had been lifted in exchange for its halt in nuclear enrichment activities.
Iran wants to “basically conduct a religious campaign in largely Sunni Syria but try to convert Sunnis,” he said at a joint press conference with Merkel.
“This will inflame another religious war — this time a religious war inside Syria and the consequences will be many, many more refugees and you know where exactly they will come,” he said.
More than one million asylum seekers, with Syrians making up the biggest group, arrived in Germany since 2015, creating deep new political divisions in the country and shrinking Merkel’s ruling majority in her fourth term.
Germany, France and Britain are three of the signatories of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between world powers and Iran, aimed at keeping Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Netanyahu, who has long railed against the deal, will continue on to Paris for meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday and British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday.
All three countries have vowed to try to salvage the hard-fought accord since President Donald Trump announced the United States withdrawal from it last month.
The European powers argue it is the best way to head off a regional arms race and have vowed with Russia and China, the two other signatory countries, to keep it alive. Merkel insisted that the Europeans and Israel were “united by the goal that Iran must never get a nuclear weapon” but acknowledged deep differences with Netanyahu on “how we can best achieve this”. She defended the nuclear accord as ensuring “at least for a certain time, that Iran’s activities are under control” noting that Tehran had been “on the brink of having a nuclear weapon” before the deal was signed. But she acknowledged that a supplementary deal with Tehran covering its ballistic missile programme as well as its interventions in countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen was needed.—AFP