BERLIN, Nov 22 – A contender to be the next German foreign minister urged U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday not to cancel the Iran nuclear deal or move too close to Moscow, saying such policy shifts could cause more instability in the Middle East.
Rolf Muetzenich, a potential successor to Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier if the latter is elected German president in February, said Trump had not articulated a clear agenda for the Middle East, creating a “conceptual vacuum”.
“We have to prepare for difficult situations, particularly if Trump and the Republicans try to cancel the Iran nuclear deal,” Muetzenich, foreign policy speaker for Germany’s Social Democrats, told broadcaster Suedwestrundfunk.
During the campaign, Trump was critical of the nuclear deal struck under President Barack Obama in which Iran agreed to restrict its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.
Muetzenich also expressed concern that the incoming U.S. administration may not fully understand the complexity of the Syrian war and that it went well beyond U.S. and Russian interests.
The failure of Trump to articulate clear policy ideas for the Middle East “makes me fear further instability and even possible additional proxy wars,” Muetzenich said ahead of a meeting with the U.N. Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura.
Muetzenich said Syria and Russia were taking advantage of the time before Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20 to “create facts” in Syria through a resumption of bombing and air strikes, but only a political solution would be possible in the end.
He said it was important for other parties, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran, to be involved in a political solution to prevent the crisis escalating further.
“Until now it has been focused on Syria and parts of Iraq, but that doesn’t mean it can’t expand even further,” he said.
Trump’s opponents fear that his stated intention to work more closely with Russian President Vladimir Putin means Washington could withdraw support for Syrian opposition groups and agree to President Bashar al-Assad staying in power.
While Russia has maintained strong support for Assad, whom it regards as a bulwark against Islamist militancy, the Obama administration has said Assad must leave power under any political transition.
Muetzenich said the question of whether he could succeed Steinmeier was “interesting,” but he could not comment publicly on the issue.