German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that her country would welcome Iran's participation in negotiations aimed at ending the civil war in Syria, but also criticized the Islamic Republic for its comments against Israel.
Speaking at a news conference in Berlin, Merkel was asked whether she thought Iran could play a constructive role in Syria-related talks, Reuters reported.
"I think Iran has a lot of influence over what happens in Syria. And everyone is welcome to participate constructively in the negotiations," she replied, in comments marking a change in European attitudes towards Iran since the agreement signed with world powers.
Previously, most Western powers were reluctant to see Iran have any role in diplomacy over the Syrian crisis, as Tehran is the strongest supporter of President Bashar Al-Assad and has provided him with financial and military support..
At the same time, Merkel added that Iran's opposition to Israel needed to change.
"It is not acceptable how Iran continues to talk about Israel," she said, according to Reuters. "It is a disappointment that there has been no change as far as the recognition of Israel goes."
Israel opposes the nuclear deal, saying it will not succeed in preventing Iran developing nuclear weapons and will allow the country to exert greater influence in the region.
Iranian leaders have continued to verbally attack Israel and call for its destruction, even after the nuclear deal that was signed with Western powers.
A close aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, last weekend replied to British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond's recent remarks that Tehran has changed its policy on Israel, and underlined that fighting the “Zionist regime” is Iran’s everlasting policy.
"Fight against the illegal Zionist regime is one of the immutable policies of Iran which has always been maintained," the aide, Seyed Mahmoud Nabavi, told the semi-official Fars news agency.
He blasted Hammond's comments and said, "Such words are incorrect since one of the driving goals of the Islamic Revolution has been campaign against the arrogant powers."
"We haven’t recognized the Zionist regime since the beginning of the Islamic Revolution and such a policy will continue," Nabavi stressed.
Hammond comments last Sunday came as he reopened the British embassy, four years after it was ransacked by an Iranian mob, forcing its closure.
Nabavi’s dismissal of the comments marks the third time that an Iranian official has commented on Hammond’s remarks since they were made.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday stressed that the “Zionist regime” had no place in diplomatic talks between Tehran and London.
A day earlier, the Iranian Parliament Speaker's Adviser for International Affairs Hossein Sheikholeslam blasted Hammond for what Fars described as his “interfering” remarks, and said Tehran's positions against Israel have not changed at all.
"Our positions against the usurper Zionist regime have not changed at all; Israel should be annihilated and this is our ultimate slogan," Sheikholeslam told reporters in Tehran.
Merkel’s comments are not the first time that a German official has urged Iran to rethink its stance towards Israel.
German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, who is also Germany's economy minister, recently visited Tehran and 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," Gabriel said, adding, "You can't have a good economic relationship with Germany in the long term if we don't discuss such issues and try to move them along.”