Middle East: “We will leave no stone unturned as we endeavour to prevent further escalation”

05.01.2020 - Interview

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in an interview with the “Bild am Sonntag” newspaper on the current situation following the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

Has the killing of Qasem Soleimani made the world more or less safe?

Soleimani left a trail of blood and violence throughout the Middle East. There was a reason why he was on the EU’s terror list. At the same time, the situation has become more unpredictable after his killing and the efforts to reduce tensions have become even more difficult. No-one can predict with any certainty what direction the region will take now. However, our goals are clear: first of all, to avoid an escalation in the form of armed conflict; secondly – to preserve the stability and integrity of Iraq and thirdly to ensure that the IS doesn’t regain ground in the aftermath of these events.

Have you spoken to Iranian representatives and what do you want to do (including joint efforts with France and the UK) to defuse the situation?

I’ve been in close contact with my colleagues since Friday morning, in particular those in France and the UK, the EU High Representative, Josep Borrell, as well as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In the coming days, we will leave no stone unturned as we endeavour to prevent a further escalation of the situation – in the United Nations, the EU and in dialogue with our partners in the region, also in talks with Iran. Everyone must be aware that any provocation at this point could lead to an uncontrollable spiral of violence with unforeseeable consequences for the entire region and for of our security here in Europe.

Should the Bundeswehr be withdrawn from Iraq?

The fight against ISIS continues to be in Germany’s interest and the Bundeswehr is making a key contribution with its training programme. As long as the situation allows, we shouldn’t be the ones to call this successful mission into question. However, our main priority is the safety of our soldiers; that’s why the training programme was suspended temporarily on Friday and that’s why we have to constantly review the assessment of the situation.

In the Federal Foreign Office’s view, is there an increased security risk for German tourists in the Gulf region?

So far there have been no concrete threats against Germans in the main tourist destinations. However, the situation in the region has become more volatile. At the present time, no scenario can be ruled out with absolute certainty. Anyone who has plans to travel to the region should keep informed of local developments and follow the Federal Foreign Office’s travel and security advice.


Interview conducted by Angelika Hellemann


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