The German foreign minister met his Israeli counterpart Wednesday in Düsseldorf to mark 40 years of diplomatic relations between the two nations. But friendship wasn't the only topic on the agenda.
German-Israeli relations: "nothing less than a miracle"
One of their major topics of discussion centered not on the historic anniversary, but rather on how to best prevent Iran from attaining atomic weapons.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer welcomed his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom in the western German city of Düsseldorf. On the 40th anniversary of mutual diplomatic recognition by the two countries, both ministers underlined their desire for even closer ties.
Fischer used the occasion to repeat his call for Israelis and Palestinians to continue to work together to create a viable two-state solution in the Middle East.
Putting pressure on Teheran
More importantly, the German foreign minister also announced that a high level European Union delegation will meet next week with representatives of the Iranian government in an effort to convince Tehran to reject building nuclear weapons.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shalom, for his part, demanded that the issue of Iranian atomic ambitions be addressed by the UN Security Council. He stressed that the conflict should be resolved by diplomatic means, however, and flatly rejected a military option.
"The sooner the matter is raised in the Security Council, the better," he said. "Iran will never give up on its intentions to own atomic weapons. We believe they are about to develop the bomb."
The EU delegation is to be made up of Fischer and his colleagues from France and Great Britain, as well as the EU's chief diplomat Javier Solana. Speaking at a press conference in Washington on Tuesday, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw told reporters that he remains optimistic for those talks.
In Düsseldorf, Joschka Fischer and Silvan Shalom concentrated more on efforts to expand and deepen relations between Germany and Israel.
The German foreign minister declared that further developing the special relationship between the countries must be based on "the memory and the responsibility of history," referring to the murder of six million Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II. He added that, above all, the younger generation must be reminded of the past.
The Israeli foreign minister responded that Jews "could never forget or forgive" their suffering at the hands of the Nazis, but asserted that today, Germany and Israel share common interests and values and will continue to work together in combating terrorism and anti-semitism, as well as in pressing the peace process in the Middle East forward. He reminded reporters that Germany is Israel's most important trade partner and one of its staunchest allies. Shalom closed saying, "Our close relationship is nothing less than a miracle."
At the end of May, Israeli President Mosche Katzav will make an official visit to Berlin to commemorate the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations on May 12, 1965.
Shalom is due Thursday to visit the recently opened Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, after which he'll attend the opening of a new exhibition "New Hebrews -- A Century of Art in Israel" with Interior Minister Otto Schily.