June 10 (UPI) -- German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visited Iran Monday to express support for the 2015 nuclear agreement Berlin helped broker with the United States and four other nations.
Maas met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to discuss ways to preserve the deal. The meeting comes halfway through a two-month ultimatum Iran gave to European nations to work out a trade deal to guard Tehran from U.S. sanctions. The United States withdrew last year from the pact under President Donald Trump and vowed to punish nations that conduct business with Iran.
A proposed agreement, the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), is a payment channel that circumvents U.S. sanctions.
"Germany still supports the [deal] and we believe Iran should be able to use its economic advantage," Maas said Monday. "We want Iran's trade and its economic growth to increase through INSTEX with Europe and it is Iran's right to enjoy the [deal's] financial benefits."
Iran has repeatedly blamed the United States for growing tensions in the region, where Washington has already sent military forces to prepare for potential disruption.
"We had long talks today. The common target of Iran, Germany and EU is preserving [the agreement] and preventing tensions in the region," Zarif said. "The U.S. has announced economic war against Iran. This is dangerous to the region, the world and international order."
Zarif rejected calls to meet with U.S. officials.
"They should first show us that negotiations with the U.S. will have a benefit and then ask for talks," Zarif said. "The problem of our region is that the U.S. seeks to oppress Palestinians."
Germany joined with the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and the European Union in 2015 to sign off on the nuclear deal, which vowed to lift U.S. sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran shelving its nuclear program. Maas said Germany, France and Britain are all committed to saving the deal.