Germany's top diplomat flew to Israel on Sunday for a two-day visit aimed at boosting peace talks with the Palestinians and continuing Germany's support for moderate forces inside the Gaza Strip.
Germany is considered among Israel's closest allies
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has arrived in Tel Aviv on a two-day visit to Israel and the Gaza Strip, aimed at promoting a new start to peace talks.
He was to meet his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman, President Shimon Peres and the family of captured soldier Gilad Shalit, as well as Palestinian officials in Jerusalem.
Ahead of his arrival, Westerwelle told the Israeli Yediot Ahronoth daily that any unilateral declaration of independence by Palestinians would not bring the sides "closer to comprehensive peace and security."
"There is no alternative to a negotiated solution," he told the newspaper. "That said, determined action needs to be taken to achieve it."
Germany is seen as a close ally of Israel, but Berlin has openly criticized the Jewish state in recent months, including its settlements policy and the deadly May raid on a flotilla of aid ships to Gaza.
Westerwelle will not be meeting with Hamas leaders in Gaza
Westerwelle said Israel must make "concessions on the issue of settlements" if any progress is to be made in the Middle East peace process.
A spokesman for Germany's top diplomat said he would travel to Gaza on Monday depending on the security situation.
Westerwelle has refused to meet officials from the hard-line Hamas, which runs Gaza, saying the aim of the German government is to support moderate Palestinians.
He's scheduled to visit development projects and meet with Palestinian business leaders.
Author: Darren Mara (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Kyle James