TEHRAN (Reuters) – Confrontation between Washington and Tehran is now “explosive” and could lead to military escalation, Germany’s foreign minister said on Monday, becoming the most senior Western official to visit Iran since a war of words erupted last month.
Iran accused the United States of waging economic war by reimposing and extending sanctions. Nevertheless, it reassured Germany’s Heiko Maas that it still wants to work with European powers to salvage a deal to curb its nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions, which Washington abandoned a year ago.
European countries have found themselves caught in the middle as the United States and Iran have taken increasingly aggressive postures in recent weeks.
Washington sharply tightened sanctions from the start of May, ordering all countries and companies to halt all imports of Iranian oil or be banished from the global financial system.
It has since also began discussing military confrontation, dispatching extra troops to the region to counter what it describes as Iranian threats.
Iran, for its part, has threatened to increase its enrichment of uranium in response, unless European powers find a way to shield it from the impact of American sanctions.
“The situation in the region here is highly explosive and extremely serious,” Maas told a news conference alongside Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. “A dangerous escalation of existing tensions can also lead to a military escalation.”
The U.N. nuclear watchdog says Iran is still abiding by the nuclear deal despite the U.S. withdrawal. But experts say that if it carries out its threat to increase its output of enriched uranium, it could eventually violate it.
“We had frank and serious talks with Maas,” said Zarif, one of the nuclear deal’s architects. “Tehran will cooperate with EU signatories of the deal to save it,” he said of the deal.
Zarif blamed the United States for the escalation.
“Reducing tension is only possible through stopping the economic war by America,” he said. “Those who wage such wars cannot expect to remain safe.”
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