Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the Iran nuclear deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), saying its further implementation was supported by the two countries.

“Russia and Germany resolutely stand for the continued implementation of the joint plan,” Xinhua news agency quoted Putin as saying after his meeting with Merkel.

“We certainly could not ignore the issue of preserving the JCPOA on Iran’s nuclear programme, which is vitally important not only for the region but also for the whole world,” he said.

German President Joachim Gauck, an east German Protestant, took up the appeal that other Europeans had already made for Germany to assume more leadership responsibility in Europe. In the course of the year, Merkel, an East German Protestant, has answered that appeal. The eastern half of Europe is her world. She has it in her bones. She understands it.

Merkel has long been recognised as Europe’s leading politician, but this year, during the crisis over Ukraine, she became its leading stateswoman.

Tehran agreed to roll back parts of its nuclear weapons programme in exchange for decreased economic sanctions.

In reaction to the US withdrawal and also in response to Europe’s sluggishness in facilitating Iran’s banking transactions and its oil exports, Tehran has made stage-by-stage moves away from its nuclear commitments since last May.

But earlier this month, the Iranian government announced that it would abandon the nuclear deal in response to the US drone attack that killed Major General Qasem Soleimani on January 3 in Baghdad.

(With inputs from agency)