Germany Poised to Send Border Experts to Detect Gaza Tunnels | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 20.01.2009
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Germany Poised to Send Border Experts to Detect Gaza Tunnels

Germany has placed on standby for deployment to Egypt four border police experts and equipment to detect secret smuggling tunnels into the Gaza Strip, a senior government official said in Berlin on Monday.

A Palestinian smuggler climbs from a tunnel as a hose is seen that is used to bring fuel from Egypt to Gaza before the recent conflict

Smuggling tunnels like this can bring through oil, weapons or food from Egypt

Israel says rockets and other weaponry being smuggled through the tunnels were being used in attacks on settlements in its south.

German Deputy Interior Minister August Hanning said Egypt had requested the detection equipment and technical skills.

The team comprises two technicians and two border monitoring specialists, and would likely be accompanied by a foreign office official. Their task would be to conduct a survey of the tunnels with the aid of Egyptian authorities.

Berlin said the assistance team was awaiting a go-head from Cairo before deploying.

"We are ready to send our delegation to Egypt at a moment's notice," Hanning said.

Steinmeier peace plan

As part of additional efforts to secure a lasting ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has devised a five-phase peace plan that has been forwarded to key parties in the conflict, German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported Monday.

Steinmeier has made two visits to the region since the crisis erupted.

The European Union would be active in all five stages of the plan, beginning with providing humanitarian aid, the report said. Donor countries would pay for medicines, food, emergency shelter and fuel for scores of Gazans.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Steinmeier wants to ensure the US is not the only leader in Middle East peace talks

The next step would involve efforts to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza, with the German experts playing a key role.

The plan would also involve reopening border crossings, reconstructing parts of Gaza that suffered under heavy Israeli bombing and moving towards a resumption of long-term peace talks.

Sueddeutsche reported that the plan had been checked in advance with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. Prague is currently exercising the EU presidency, but has not objected to Germany moving to center stage on Gaza.

The daily said Steinmeier's plan also aimed to help the Palestinian Authority regain influence in Gaza from Hamas and that Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party would play a key role in an international conference of donors.

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