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German INSTEX chief ‘forced to resign’ after criticizing Israel

A video still shows former German Ambassador to Iran Bernd Erbel speaking during what the Bild newspaper has described as a "scandalous" interview with Ken Jebsen, a German television and radio presenter, which was broadcast on YouTube on July 16, 2019. (Photo via Youtube)

Bernd Erbel, who was recently appointed to head Europe’s trade mechanism with Iran, known as INSTEX, has been reportedly forced to resign after a German newspaper accused Germany's former ambassador to Tehran of supporting “anti-Semitism,” criticizing Israel and supporting Iran’s missile program.

“He was forced to resign: the German diplomat will not assume office any longer,” reported Germany's biggest-selling newspaper Bild on Thursday.

Bild announced the resignation a day after allegedly requesting the German Foreign Ministry to issue a statement regarding two recent interviews where Erbel made the controversial comments.

A spokesman for the foreign ministry informed the newspaper on Thursday that Erbel had resigned from the position “for personal reasons.” Bild described the resignation as being "forced," nonetheless.

“The Foreign Office was not aware of the interviews. Erbel has not yet addressed the issue as an employee of the house,” a spokesperson of the German Foreign Ministry told Bild.

The resignation came shortly after Erbel was appointed to lead INSTEX earlier this month.

The long-anticipated INSTEX trade mechanism has been designed by the European signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to shield the Iranian economy from unilateral US sanctions which were imposed last year when President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement. The system has yet to become fully operational.

'Scandalous interviews'

Nearly a month ago, Erbel gave two interviews to Ken Jebsen, a German television and radio presenter who has already been accused of being an “anti-Semite” and a “Holocaust denier.”

Bild accused Erbel of getting “along very well with Ebsen” during the talks, touching on a number of different topics which Bild painted in a negative light.

Detailing the content of the discussions, Bild, however, did not explain why exactly Erbel's comments were deemed as "scandalous" and unacceptable.

‘Iran's ballistic missile tests do not violate the law'

Speaking about Iran’s nuclear energy program, Erbel said Germany did not budge on "one point" to grant Israel's wish to stop Iran's nuclear program.

Erbel also defended Iran’s defensive missile program.

“Developing ballistic missiles and testing them does not violate the law,” he said, adding that “there was only an appeal on Iran to avoid such tests as long as they’re nuclear capable.”

Erbel further defended Iran’s regional policy, saying that Iran had never attacked another country since the 18th century.

Erbel also denounced Israeli occupation, saying that the Tel Aviv regime was “more than a foreign body in the region,” and that Israel was established “at the expense of another people that lost their homeland.”

“They give you the feeling that only others can commit an act of injustice, because they were on the receiving end of injustice,” added Erbel in reference to Jewish oppression under Nazi Germany.

“The Palestinians are the victims of our victims. Quite simple,” he added.

The former German ambassador further discussed the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement’s struggle against Israel, saying that it was “enormously important, psychologically, too, to see that there is a successful uprising against Israel.”

Erbel also hailed Syria's success in fighting terrorism over the past eight years, claiming that “it was the first place” where foreign-backed unrest in the Middle East had been defeated.

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