Sigmar Gabriel
Sigmar Gabriel Reuters

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel insists that Iran will only be able to have normal relations with his country if it recognizes Israel.

Speaking to the Der Spiegel news magazine and quoted by Reuters, Gabriel said Iran could only have normal, friendly relations with Germany when it accepted the right of Israel to exist.

His comments come ahead of a visit to Iran next week. Gabriel said he plans to raise concerns about Iran's role in the war in Syria and its human rights record during his visit to Tehran.

Gabriel made similar remarks during a previous visit to Iran last year, when he said Iran must recognize Israel in order to have economic relations with Germany.

“Questioning [Israel's] right to existence is something that we Germans cannot accept," he said at the time.

His previous visit to Iran, which came soon after the signing of the nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and six world powers, was criticized by local Jewish groups and opposition lawmakers, who urged Germany to consider its special responsibility toward Israel.

Gabriel dismissed that criticism at the time, saying the earlier sanctions against Iran only had "one concrete reason and that was the nuclear negotiations."