German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has welcomed the prospect of new Middle East talks after Israel and the Palestinians agreed to restart direct peace negotiations for the first time in 20 months.
The city of Jerusalem remains at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Germany has greeted the Friday announcement by US officials that Israel and the Palestinians will resume direct peace talks in early September with the aim of reaching a deal within a year to create an independent Palestinian state.
Guido Westerwelle said the the new talks should encourage more trust
"It's an important signal for the peace process, which gives new hope to real progress towards a two-state solution," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in Berlin.
He added the German government was working closely with their partners in the Middle East Quartet to make sure the two sides entered into direct talks.
"It's now up to the two parties to look ahead and have the courage to find solutions for all the key open questions," Westerwelle said. He appealed to both sides to use this chance and to create the right atmosphere for negotiations, "which would encourage more trust."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas will meet
face-to-face in Washington on September 2 with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Talks welcomed around Europe
The prospect of talks has been welcomed around Europe. The French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he had long pressed both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanjahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to talk to one another. He pointed out that both sides ultimately wanted peace.
The Italian Foreign Secretary Franco Frattini called the talks a particularly positive development. "The Italian government will give every possible support," he said in Rome.
European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton urged Israel and the Palestinians to work "fast and hard" to reach a negotiated peace settlement.
"The parties must work fast and hard on all the final status issues to meet the Quartet's call for a negotiated settlement within one year," Ashton said.
The chief EU diplomat said the negotiations would need "sustained regional, international support" and the continuation of the Palestinian state-building process.
Author: Joanna Impey (AFP/AP/dpa)
Editor: Toma Tasovac