January 31, 2011 | Jerusalem Post

Diplomat Slams German-Iranian Trade Ahead of Merkel Trip

BERLIN – Emmanuel Nahshon, the deputy chief of mission for the Israeli Embassy, criticized what he said was the planned promotion of German-Iranian trade at a conference on exports to Iran to be held in Frankfurt on Monday.

Also on Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel and several of her ministers will participate in a joint cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

“If the same energy invested in finding ways to circumvent sanctions against Iran was used in enforcement of sanctions, it would help a great deal the international efforts against the Iranian atomic bomb,” Nahshon told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

Frustration with Berlin’s failure to curtail the flourishing trade with the Islamic Republic has prompted Nahshon and Israeli Ambassador Yoram Ben-Ze’ev to express sharp criticism of Germany’s roughly 4 billion euro trade with Iran during the first 10 months of 2010.

Nahshon slammed in mid-January two seminars jointly sponsored by the German Economic Ministry and the city of Bayreuth’s chamber of commerce to promote the trade. The seminars “give Iran a feeling of support for its policies, including its ruthless and brutal repression of human rights,” he told the Post at the time.

The Economic Ministry is headed by the Free Democratic Party’s Rainer Brüderle. The Free Democrats, the coalition partner of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, are a pro-business party, many of whose members own midsized companies. A sizable number of FDP members are involved in commerce with Iran, and oppose restrictions on the trade.

Brüderle and the Free Democrat’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle are slated to attend the joint cabinet meeting on Monday.

Israeli diplomatic sources told the Post earlier this month that Iran will be the top issue on the agenda at the cabinet meeting, including the Hamburg-based European-Iranian Trade Bank (EIH), which the US Treasury Department says is a conduit for Iran’s missile and nuclear programs. The Treasury department designated the EIH a global terrorist entity last year and said, “As one of Iran’s few remaining access points to the European financial system, EIH has facilitated a tremendous volume of transactions for Iranian banks previously [blacklisted] for proliferation.”

The Merkel administration refuses to shut down the EIH.

Gunther Schilling, the organizer of the “Roundtable, Iran-Embargo” event and a division director at the FAZ Institute, wrote the Post on Friday:

“I’m sorry that the Israeli envoy criticized our event without knowing its content. I understand his concern that Iran is putting itself in a position to produce nuclear weapons. I share this concern and support the international efforts against it. I reject his statement that we are looking for ways to circumvent the sanctions.

“The purpose and content of our event is information and sensitizing exporting German businesses to the rules of the embargo. We are interested in avoiding violations of the law, and thus in adhering to embargo regulations.”

Asked about Germany’s self-described special responsibility toward the Jewish state because of the Holocaust, Schiller wrote, “Whether the FAZ and the participants in this event have a special responsibility toward Israel is not significant to assessing our round table, as the event does not conflict with that responsibility. Independently of this, I believe that this responsibility exists.”

He added, “But it is not only in Israel’s interests to prevent the nuclear arming of Iran, even though the threat to Israel from Iran is especially great. It seems to me that, in this context, the Iranian president’s denial of the Holocaust is less important than his threat to destroy Israel. Both the denial of the Holocaust and the destruction of Israel are unacceptable positions that I most strongly reject. I object, also in the name of the organizers of the round table, to being linked to these positions.”

According to the FAZ Institute, the Roundtable Iran-Embargo seminar “is designed for directors of companies and those responsible for exporting goods as well as decision-makers in the export financing sector.”

Schiller noted that the institute is a subsidiary of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, a conservative daily. German Jewish Leaders such as the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dr. Dieter Graumann, who lives in Frankfurt, and it’s general-secretary Stephan J. Kramer, have accused the paper as stoking anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiments over the years.

According to media observers, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has criticized Iran’s government and advocated international sanctions targeting Teheran, but shies away from reporting about German-Iranian business relations, including investigative reports involving illegal trade. The paper is pro-business with closes ties to German industry.

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