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Interview by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on a range of current issues

29.01.2021 - Interview

Interview with the news agency Reuters

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on transatlantic relations:

We were unhappy with how difficult it was to predict the US’ actions over the last few years in terms of foreign policy. That is now set to change – which is what we’ve been waiting for. It is crucial for the new US administration to adopt a much more active and more reliable foreign and security policy. We hope that this will also apply to the various global crises where we Europeans have taken on responsibility, such as in Ukraine, as well as in various parts of Africa.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Afghanistan:

We will use the meeting of NATO defence ministers in late February to discuss the future of our presence in Afghanistan. Unlike in the past, we will now plan the coming weeks and months together. We cannot expect that the peace talks in the country will really be concluded by the end of April. It is important to tie the political process to the withdrawal of troops. If the US and NATO troops are withdrawn before any significant breakthrough is reached in the peace talks, there is a danger that the Taliban will no longer seek a solution at the negotiating table. Overall, the US and Europeans agree that we want to end our operations there. But we must coordinate our next steps and continue to monitor the situation on the ground.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Iran:

US President Biden has indicated that he is open to the US rejoining the nuclear agreement. I believe that the E3 and the US will rapidly enter talks. However, it is clear that Iran must fulfil its obligations and end its current violations of the agreement. If the US ultimately does rejoin, this will mean that sanctions are lifted and no new ones are imposed.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on NATO and possible new NATO members:

In our view, the conditions for Georgia, for example, remain largely the same. The instability in the region has not abated. But this will need to be discussed. The same goes for Ukraine. Talks and proceedings are ongoing but, as things stand, NATO accession is not imminent.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Russia and US-Russian relations:

The Trump administration’s policy on Russia was not only ambivalent but utterly fruitless. Now, within just a few hours, President Biden has extended the New START Treaty by five years. Anything else would have seen the agreement consigned to history within days. I believe it is extraordinarily important that this was not allowed to happen. The new US administration has given an unequivocal response to the Navalny case, while also showing that it can reach viable solutions by engaging in dialogue with Russia on important issues.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on coronavirus foreign policy:

The fight against the pandemic is acting as a rapid test of international cooperation. It must be clear that we can only be successful when we work together.   We will only be safe when all of us are safe. That is why the UN Secretary-General was right to put global vaccine supply to all countries on the agenda.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on vaccine competition with China and Russia:

Even if other countries have approved their vaccines more quickly – whatever procedure they followed – and are now distributing them worldwide, we must produce and approve in line with our own standards. What’s important is of course to signal to our partners outside the European Union that they have a stake in these efforts, too. But I still believe it is right that the EU member states will necessarily have an interest in meeting their own needs. When others then use this to highlight ‘who acts faster, which system is better’ –  it’s no different to the issues around mask production during the first wave of the pandemic. This is something we must address. But I am quite sure that it will not do any lasting damage to the European prospects that the countries of the Western Balkans are so keenly pursuing.

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