Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen has called on Germany to take decisive action against the rulers in Iran and their nuclear program. "This is the moment to take steps. This is the moment to act with the aim of preventing Iran from having a nuclear weapon," said Cohen in Berlin at a meeting with his counterpart Annalena Baerbock (Greens).
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has found particles of very highly enriched uranium in Iran. As IAEA boss Rafael Grossi officially confirmed for the first time, the uranium had a purity of 83.7 percent. That's just under the 90 percent needed for nuclear weapons. The traces were discovered in January during an inspection of a uranium enrichment facility in Fordow.
Iranian authorities told the IAEA that the extremely high level of enrichment was an "unintended fluctuation." Talks with Tehran to clarify this issue are underway, according to the non-public report available to the German Press Agency.
Cohen said there were two options with Iran - putting sanctions and military options on the table. Referring to his country's intelligence, he said, "Now is the right time to work on those two steps." He also called for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to be classified as a terrorist organization.
Concern about nuclear escalation from Tehran
At the start of a joint press appearance, Baerbock emphasized the friendship between Germany and Israel. Germany stands by its responsibility for the security of Israel. "Israel can always rely on that," she said, also citing foreign policy action with regard to Iran. "Iran's regime not only oppresses its own citizens in the most brutal way," but also endangers the stability of the region. "We both share concern about Iran's nuclear escalation and the latest reports of very high uranium enrichment," said Baerbock. "There is no plausible civilian justification for such a high level of enrichment. Iran must not be allowed to acquire a nuclear bomb." She referred to diplomatic efforts.
Baerbock also expressed concern about the increasing violence in the Middle East conflict. "Lately we're seeing images of deadly terrorist attacks against Israelis at ever shorter intervals," she said. Likewise, compassion applies to the victims of acts of revenge and vigilantism, she said. After a Palestinian attack in the West Bank, in which two Israelis were killed, Israeli settlers rioted on Sunday evening. One Palestinian was killed and hundreds injured. A 27-year-old Israeli who also had US citizenship was shot dead near Jericho on Monday evening. The alleged Palestinian perpetrators were able to escape.
Baerbock: Introducing the death penalty in Israel would be a mistake
Baerbock also conveyed to Cohen Germany's concerns about plans to introduce the death penalty for terrorists. "We are firmly against the death penalty and we are speaking up around the world," she said. In Germany, you learn in school that Israel, although it is threatened by terror like no other country, has only carried out the death penalty once in its history - against the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. Baerbock: "That was always an impressive argument for those of us who have defended Israel against unfair criticism on the international stage. So I say as a friend: I am convinced that it would be a big mistake to break with this story."
The Israeli cabinet approved a bill on Sunday that would provide for the death penalty for terrorists. The controversial proposal still has to pass several readings in Parliament before it can come into force. A first vote is expected on Wednesday.
Cohen also visited the Holocaust memorial in Berlin and met with representatives of the Jewish community. It is his first visit since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new right-wing religious government took office in December. Domestically, there are strong tensions in Israel. Tens of thousands of people have been taking to the streets for weeks to protest against the government's controversial judicial reform. Critics see the project as a serious threat to Israel's democracy.