Germany seeks early meeting of EU diplomats over Mideast

Heiko Maas (SPD), Foreign Minister, goes through plenary session at the SPD federal party conference after the first ballot for further members of the executive committee in Berlin, German, Saturday, Dec.7, 2019. Maas did not obtain the necessary votes in the first ballot. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP)

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BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s foreign minister said Sunday that he has proposed bringing forward a regular meeting with counterparts from other European Union countries to the coming week amid escalating tensions in the Middle East.

Heiko Maas said in a statement that “Europe now has an important role in view of the menacing escalation of the conflict between the United States and Iran” and that EU foreign ministers should “quickly agree on a common approach.”

Maas said Europe has reliable channels of communication to all sides that should be used “to the full extent” in the current situation.

Germany will reach out to Iraq to clarify relations following a parliamentary vote to expel foreign troops, he said, adding that “we will respect every decision.”

Germany has about 130 soldiers in Iraq as part of an international assistance and training mission. The German Defense Ministry said late Sunday that a regular rotation of troops replacing some of those currently in Iraq has been suspended.

Maas said Germany stands ready to continue to provide assistance in Iraq “if it is requested and the situation allows it,” adding that the fight against the Islamic State group there is not over. “In order to discuss this with our international partners there should be a meeting of the anti-IS coalition as soon as possible.”

Maas spoke Sunday with his counterparts in France, Britain, Italy and the European Union, the head of NATO and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

Earlier Sunday, the foreign ministry confirmed that the charge d’affaires of the German embassy in Tehran met with Iranian foreign ministry officials, but provided no details.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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