Gabriel, who is also economy minister, is the first senior figure from a large western government to visit Iran since it struck a landmark agreement with world powers on its nuclear program last week.
The deal was reached despite strong opposition from Israel, with which Germany has cultivated a close relationship since the end of World War Two, when the Nazis killed six million Jews.
That puts Germany in a delicate position as it seeks to win new business in Iran after a 12-year standoff over Iran’s nuclear program during which sanctions sharply reduced trade and investment.
“Questioning this state’s (Israel’s) right to existence is something that we Germans cannot accept,” he said, adding that now Berlin and Tehran can re-establish closer ties it was necessary to talk about human rights.
In the US, Vice President Joe Biden was hard at work defending the deal. In a conference call with the Jewish community that drew thousands of listeners, Biden reaffirmed his commitment to Israel.
He also pointed to his longstanding support for the Jewish state and downplayed concerns that Tehran could sidestep inspections.
“The idea that they can evade verification is not possible,” he said.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced on Tuesday that he would travel to Iran next week for talks “on all subjects” and would meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
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