Iran must forego nuclear armament

25.05.2012 - Interview

Foreign Minister Westerwelle speaks to the Leipziger Volkszeitung on 25 May 2012 about the Iranian nuclear programme and the Federal President’s visit to Israel


Is Germany’s solidarity with Israel truly unconditional?

Israel’s security and right to exist are core tenets of the German state.

Wouldn’t a missile shield guarantee for Israel, as expressed by France, the UK and the US, be the solution to the conflict over a first strike or retaliatory strike in terms of the Iranian nuclear programme?

We should do everything we can to work on a political and diplomatic solution to the nuclear conflict with Iran. Iran has the right to civil use of nuclear energy. We are prepared to offer Iran support with this, including technical support. But Iran also has the obligation to forego all nuclear armament, and to do so in an accessible and verifiable manner. Far more than the security of our friend Israel is at stake here. The security and stability of the entire region and the preservation of the world’s security architecture hang in the balance. A nuclear-armed Iran could mean the start of a nuclear arms race. But what we want is to advance nuclear non-proliferation.

And does a member of the German Government have a duty to stand by German Nobel Prize winner Günther Grass in the face of the anti-Semitism accusations?

Günther Grass, whose literary work I admire, unsettled not only people in Israel, but also people in Germany with what he wrote in his column. One is confusing cause and effect by conveying the impression that Israel threatens Iran’s security rather than the other way round.

Is the German President’s visit to Israel intended to conclusively make amends for the Grass affair?

Federal President Gauck’s visit to Israel signifies far more than just a response to a current debate. It is Joachim Gauck’s very first state visit as Federal President. The fact that he has chosen Israel is a fortunate and historically significant decision. I am confident that the citizens of Israel will be deeply moved by President Gauck and by the major role of freedom and human dignity in his life story.

Why does invoking the Holocaust appear to remain so politically profitable?To name a recent example, Thilo Sarrazin seems to view the euro as some sort of act of German penance for the Holocaust.

Invoking the Holocaust to justify one’s own political positions should not become fashionable. When the SPD-green coalition government deployed German soldiers to the Balkans, I found the use of the Holocaust to justify this decision completely unacceptable, regardless of the rightness of the decision itself. The Holocaust is an event unparalleled in human history; any comparison with or reference to this darkest chapter of German history should be undertaken with the utmost sensitivity and caution.

Sarrazin has his eye on more than that.

It is inappropriate to make the common European currency sound like some kind of European compensation for the darkest chapter of our history. Europe and the common European currency are not only the peaceful answer to centuries of war on the European continent. In an era of globalization, as we witness the rise of new global players, Europe and the euro also ensure our prosperity and form a part of our cultural identity.

Interview conducted by Dieter Wonka,reproduced by kind permission of the Leipziger Volkszeitung.

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