Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel in an interview with the “Huffington Post” on the conflict with North Korea, the nuclear agreement with Iran and Germany’s role in the world. Published on 23 September 2017.
Mr Gabriel, the world is watching the North Korea crisis with bated breath and the nuclear deal with Iran is on shaky ground. Many people are worried that the world as we know it could spiral out of control. What would you say to them?
The situation is indeed worrying. I have three children and sometimes I ask myself what sort of world they are growing up in.
What sort of world is it?
If we are not careful, we will face a dramatic arms race. If North Korea succeeds in acquiring an atomic bomb while the world stands by and does nothing, other countries will follow suit. That would make the world a far more dangerous place.
In his speech to the UN General Assembly, US President Donald Trump sent a very clear message to Iran and threatened the end of the nuclear deal.
The rest of the world gave Donald Trump a clear answer that it would be a big mistake to jeopardise this agreement.
Do you think that made an impression on Trump?
I don’t know. I know his Secretary of State, who is a very intelligent and prudent man. He made an unprecedented offer to North Korea – if the country refrains from building an atomic bomb, the United States will undertake not to invade it or seek a regime change.
Do you think the North Korean leader will care?
That is precisely the problem. If the United States makes an offer like this and at the same time ends an agreement with another country, why should the North Koreans accept this deal? That is one of the reasons why we Europeans and Germans are in favour of maintaining the nuclear agreement with Iran. It would be a disaster if it failed. It is the only agreement of its kind in the world that works. No country would ever agree again to a process of this kind if the agreement fails.
Why don’t the Americans understand this?
Trump sees Iran as a driving force of war and civil war in Yemen, Syria and other regions. That’s why a deal with the Iranians is regarded as so tricky.
Do you share this position?
There is no doubt that Iran’s conduct is problematic. That’s why we need to step up the pressure. But failure of the nuclear deal would not change this in any way. Trump needs to understand that.
Are you trying to form a coalition against the United States on this issue?
There already is a coalition between Germany, France and the United Kingdom. We firmly believe that this nuclear agreement must be upheld. And by the way, so do China and Russia. Only the United States want to end the agreement.
To what extent is Germany’s role in the world changing in this situation?
Our role changed a long time ago. Many Germans have no idea how good our reputation is worldwide. We are regarded as a country that puts its own interests aside in order to achieve a joint solution, where necessary. We are regarded as being fair and willing to help. We are the second-largest donor to the UN.
But we struggle with taking on a leadership role.
Germany’s experience is that there is no use doing one’s own thing. We always seek dialogue with France, the United Kingdom and other countries.
Interview conducted by Cherno Jobatey, Jürgen Klöckner, Sebastian Matthes