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Germany

German president calls for two-state solution in Middle East

At a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, Christian Wulff, the German president, said Berlin favors a two-state solution in the Middle East.

Christian Wulff and Mahmoud Abbas

Wulff was on a three-day visit to the Middle East

German President Christian Wulff told his Palestinian counterpart on Tuesday that he would like to see "an independent, sustainable and viable Palestinian state as well as Israel, living peacefully side by side along recognized borders."

In Bethlehem, Abbas told a news conference with Wulff that he had "extended the hand of peace" to Israel and said there was no alternative to a Palestinian state on the lands Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Israeli proposals being floated for a Palestinian state with temporary borders were out of the question, Abbas added.

The latest round of peace talks were stalled when a limited freeze of on the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank was not renewed. Abbas reiterated that direct talks can only resume once Israel commits to an extended freeze.

Construction site in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ariel

Israel did not extend the settlement freeze

Call for release of prisoner

Abbas also thanked Wulff for German help in calling for the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was snatched in 2006 and is still being held by the Islamist Hamas movement.

As part of a meeting on Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Wulff visited a tent put up by Shalit's relatives, opposite the premier's offices. He handed them a copy of a resolution passed by the German parliament that calls for the release of the soldier.

Accompanied by his 17-year-old daughter, Wulff arrived in Israel on Saturday evening and held talks with various Israeli polticians, among them President Shimon Peres as well as Netanyahu.

He also visited the historic Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Lutheran Talitha Kumio school, the oldest Protestant school in Palestinian territory.

Author: Nicole Goebel (dpa, AFP)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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