August 24, 2015 / 11:34 AM / in 2 years

German foreign minister to travel to Iran in October

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Monday he plans to travel to Iran in October, sending a strong signal that Europe’s largest economy wants to quickly rebuild economic and political ties with the Islamic Republic.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (unseen) speak to media outside Palais Coburg, the venue for nuclear talks, in Vienna, Austria July 13, 2015. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Steinmeier’s visit follows on from a three-day trip last month by Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who became the first senior figure from a large Western government to visit Tehran since it struck a landmark nuclear agreement with world powers.

Under the July 14 deal, agreed after more than a decade of negotiations, U.S., EU, and U.N. sanctions will be lifted in return for Tehran imposing long-term curbs on nuclear activities which the West has suspected are aimed at making an atomic bomb.

“I will be in Iran in October,” Steinmeier said at the opening of a diplomatic conference in Berlin on Monday. A foreign ministry spokesman said talks about the trip were just starting and he could not give any concrete details.

Germany has commercial and cultural links in Iran that go back to the 19th century. German firms were involved in almost every major industrial project in Iran until its 1979 Islamic Revolution, including the Trans-Iranian railway.

Western politicians have hurried to visit Tehran to reinvigorate business and diplomatic ties since the nuclear agreement. On Sunday, Britain reopened its embassy in Tehran.

While the nuclear deal is seen as a major opportunity by some, including U.S. President Barack Obama, hardliners in Washington and Tehran have opposed it, as has Israel.

Steinmeier said he understood the concerns of Israel and some Gulf countries about the agreement, but stressed that the deal would mean more, not less security, for the Middle East.

Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Caroline Copley

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