Sigmar Gabriel
Sigmar Gabriel Reuters

Iran on Saturday rejected German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel's demand that it recognize Israel in order to normalize relations with Germany.

A spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry who was quoted by Press TV made clear that the Islamic Republic would “never” recognize Israel as a precondition for normalizing ties with Germany.

"Ties between Iran and Germany are based on mutual respects and interests, and no precondition would be acceptable in this regard," the spokesman, Bahram Qasemi, said.

"Iran considers defending the rights of the people of Palestine as a principle of its foreign policy and will never and under no circumstances will forsake the Palestinian cause," he added.

"The Islamic Republic does not allow any country to interfere in its domestic affairs," stressed Qasemi.

Gabriel's demand came in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel ahead of a visit to Iran. He said that Iran could only have normal, friendly relations with Germany when it accepted the right of Israel to exist.

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."