Regardless of the decision in the U.S. Congress regarding possible military action against Iraq, Germany and the EU maintain their current positions in favor of diplomatic negotiations and weapons inspections.
Javier Solana and Joschka Fischer meet in Berlin
Shortly after coming back from his tour of the Middle East, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, stopped over in Berlin for brief talks with German foreign minister Joschka Fischer on Friday. The main topics of discussion were the current situation in Israel and Palestine as well as the chances of settling the Iraq issue peacefully.
Addressing a news conference in Berlin on Friday, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said he took note of and respected the vote by the U.S. Congress authorizing the use of force against Iraq. He added, however, that this would not change the German government's anti-war stance as already expressed prior to the federal election in Germany last month and on several occasions since then.
"We stick to our position, no ifs or buts," Fischer told Solana. "What chancellor Schröder and I said concerning the Iraq question prior to the general election still holds true. There's no reason why we should deviate from our clear and unequivocal position."
Peter Struck, Germany’s Defense Minister, echoed Fischer’s stance on the issue, telling Deutschlandlandfunk radio that Germany would remove the six Fuchs tanks currently deployed in Kuwait, if the U.S. attacks Iraq. These tanks, which are used for detecting atomic, biological and chemical weapons, were positioned in Kuwait to protect American installations against terrorists, not for a war against Iraq, Struck said.
No German isolation
The EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said that Germany had by no means isolated itself within the European Union. In fact, he too felt it was an absolute priority to focus on getting weapons inspectors back into Iraq and making intensive diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iraq problem.
Solana said it was unjustified to say that a war against Iraq was inevitable: "I think that the debate in the United Nations continues and we have to see how the situation evolves in the UN. A decision has been taken that the UN is the place where this issue is going to be discussed, and let’s hope also a solution found."
The question of war or peace rests strictly in the hands of the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Solana said. "There is still a chance to avoid war," he expressed, "but the responsibility is Saddam Hussein’s. When there is a resolution, he must follow it."
Solana also briefed the German foreign minister about his recent trip to the Middle East and informed him at length on the prospects of a speedy implementation of the so-called "road map" for the region as envisaged by the European Union. This plan will be fine-tuned after a meeting next week in Paris with Russia, the United States, and the United Nations.
Eventually, this road map will culminate in the founding of a Palestinian state by 2005. In the meantime, though, Solana said the situation in the region was "very bad and not improving."
"We will see by the end of the month whether we can take some steps to implement the road map... to see whether we can help the process move forward," Solana told reporters after meeting with Fischer.
The German foreign minister endorsed the EU’s efforts and said the European community must continue to work towards ending the violence and terror. "Germany will work together with the EU to get the two parties to return to the negotiation table," Fischer stated.