Diplomat won't head EU-Iran trade due to anti-Israel statements

Former German diplomat pulls out of job to facilitate European trade with Iran over criticism of Israel, defense of Iran.

Elad Benari,

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European Union flag

A former senior German diplomat who was to head a body designed to facilitate European trade with Iran has pulled out of the job after it emerged that he criticized Israel and defended Iran’s ballistic missile program.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry confirmed a report Thursday by the Bild newspaper that Bernd Erbel had informed officials “that he won’t be available for personal reasons” to head the organization, called INSTEX, according to AP.

This followed Bild’s exposure of comments made by Erbel, a former ambassador to Tehran, in interviews to a German-language YouTube channel.

In the interviews to Ken Jebsen, who was fired from public radio in 2011 for saying Sigmund Freud’s nephew “invented the Holocaust as PR”, Erbel said in a criticism of Israel that “the Palestinians are the victims of our victims” and “there would be no Palestine problem if the Jewish state was founded in East Prussia.”

“Israel is more than ever a foreign body in the region,” he also said.

Regarding Iran, Erbel claimed that the Islamic Republic is peaceful and argued it had not started a war in over 200 years. He also added that its missile program is legal.

Erbel was to head INSTEX, the mechanism created by Germany, France and Britain to coordinate import and export payments so European companies can do business with Iran despite US sanctions.

However, while Iran initially welcomed INSTEX, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif subsequently said that the mechanism "falls short of the commitments” by Europe to save the nuclear deal.