Vice President Mike Pence called on European allies to abandon the Iran nuclear deal while speaking at the Munich Security Conference, shortly after German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended Germany’s decision to stand by the deal.
It was the second time Pence called out European allies while touring Europe this week. He told the audience in Munich Saturday that the time had come for European partners to “stop undermining” US sanctions against Iran.
“The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and join with us as we bring the economic diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region, and the world the peace, security and freedom they deserve,” Pence said.
In stark contrast, Merkel who addressed the conference about thirty minutes before Pence, called the Iran deal “another bone of contention dividing” Europe and the United States.
“I see the Europeans on one side and the Americans on the other side,” Merkel told the conference.
“But is it helpful for our common goal to see to it that this negative impact that Iran has is contained by canceling the only agreement?” she asked. “Or can we use this as a smaller lever to put pressure on other issues?”
Neither leader attended each other’s remarks to the conference, but they did hold a bilateral meeting directly after.
Pence told reporters following the meeting that their conversations were “frank” regarding the Iran deal.
The deal struck in 2015 limits the Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. The US walked away from the Iran deal in May, arguing that even with the current restrictions on its nuclear program in place, Iran still poses a threat to the US. The US also cited Iran’s human rights abuses, aggression in the Middle East, ballistic missile testing, and support for terrorism.
Pence also held several other bilateral meetings at the conference, including with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan.
In his remarks, Pence also defended criticism against the United States, recalling a conversation he had with a leader who was worried the Trump administration would represent a moment where America would pull back from its commitments.
“I remember he said that Europe needed America to be the leader of the free world,” Pence recalled. “I told him I respected his opinion, and I appreciated his candor. And then I told him that when you hear President Trump ask our NATO allies to live up to the commitments they’ve made to our common defense, that’s what we call being leader of the free world.”
CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Nicole Gaouette and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.