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Iran blocks Merkel’s plane enroute to India

Berlin: In a pointer to the deteriorating diplomatic relations between Iran and Germany, Tehran, Tuesday, temporarily withdrew flyover rights for the plane carrying German Chancellor Angela Merkel to India, forcing it to circle over Turkey for two hours before the rights were restored and she could land in New Delhi.

“An unusual start to the India trip,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert wrote on his Twitter account. “Iran temporarily denied flyover rights for the Chancellor’s plane. A late landing in Delhi.”

Seibert was also quoted as saying: “There has never been an incident like this.”

Although, officials in the German delegation are said to be attributing the incident to “coordination problems”, the incident could have diplomatic consequences.

However, German media reports that Merkel’s plane was allowed to pass through Iranian airspace following a one-hour negotiation with Tehran which was mediated by Turkey.

As per reports, Iran withdrew the previously granted rights shortly before the plane reached Iranian territory.

Curiously, a second German government plane, with many high ranking ministers including Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière and Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich onboard, that left Berlin earlier than the one carrying Merkel reached India without any problems with Iran.

Merkel is India on an official visit. It was the inaugural flight of the new government plane “Konrad Adenauer,” an Airbus A340-300.

Relations between Berlin and Tehran have considerably deteriorated in recent years, principally due to Germany’s staunch opposition to Iran’s nuclear program.

There was also tension between the countries when Iran detained two German reporters last October 2010. It took a personal visit by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to Tehran to get them released in February 2011.

Interestingly, despite the apparent animosity between the two countries, Germany is still the third-largest exporter to Iran.

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