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Germany

German Foreign Minister Joins Mideast Mediation

As the conflict between Hamas and Israel in Gaza continues, Germany has agreed it will help mediate between the two and is sending its top foreign diplomat to get talks started.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will be holding talks with Israel and Egypt

Germany said Friday, Jan. 9, it will help mediate in the Gaza conflict, with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to meet Israeli and Egyptian officials.

Aides in Berlin said Steinmeier would leave Friday evening and was scheduled to make stops in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv and the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh, which has often hosted peace talks in the past.

Steinmeier said in Berlin he would be holding talks with Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose term ran out Thursday, and representatives of the Israeli government.

The minister has made a series of telephone calls to key players in the region in a bid to achieve a "humanitarian ceasefire" in the Gaza Strip.

Seeking peace

An Israeli tank fires of a shell towards Gaza.

The bombings in Gaza have been going on for almost two weeks

Israel has been granting daily three-hour ceasefires for relief convoys to move, but Friday's was delayed. Israel's military has been pounding the coastal strip for nearly two weeks in retaliation for rocket attacks by the radical Gaza-based Hamas movement.

Steinmeier, who was scheduled to return to Berlin on Sunday, said his aim was "that the appeal for a ceasefire leads to an actual ceasefire" and that Berlin was "deeply concerned" at the humanitarian crisis.

"The situation in the Gaza Strip can only be improved if we achieve a comprehensive ceasefire," he added.

He described the late Thursday UN Security Council resolution on the fighting as "an important sign of unity." The UN urged Israel and Hamas to immediately end the Gaza conflict.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has held back from any criticism of Israel in the conflict and has stressed that missile attacks against Israel must stop.

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