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Germany

Germany Vows to Push Mideast Peace

Stressing Germany's commitment to Israel, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has pledged to do more to help secure a lasting peace in the Middle East, ahead of a visit to the region starting on Saturday.

German and Israeli flags

Germany and Israel will always have a special relationship, Steinmeier said

Marking the 60th anniversary of Israel's founding, German parliamentarians said on Thursday, May 29, the Jewish state's right to exist had the same status as a German national interest.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is set to leave Berlin on Saturday for a Mideast tour, told the Bundestag parliament that Germany's responsibility towards Israel meant it had to "take a stand against the Iranian president's talk time and again."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has faced international criticism for saying Israel should be "wiped off the map" and questioning whether the Nazi Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were killed, actually took place.

"The immeasurable pain Germans inflicted on Germans and other Europeans of Jewish faith is part of our history," Steinmeier said. "Action for the future derives from responsibility for the past," he said.

Painful compromises

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Steinmeier heads to the Middle East on Saturday

Steinmeier warned that the "two-state" solution required painful compromises from Palestinians and Israelis. He said both sides needed resoluteness and far-sightedness. Germany and the European Union could help with the background conditions.

The minister said he saw a little blue in the "Middle East sky" with Lebanon's domestic political crisis over, adding that perhaps the conditions were now in place for reconstruction in Lebanon. He welcomed the Turkish-mediated indirect talks between Israel and Syria.

German-Israeli relations would always be a special case, he added.

Political negotiations

The Golden Shrine of the Dome of the Rock mosque in the al-Aqsa compound, known by Jews as Temple Mount

A peaceful solution in the Middle East continues to pose numerous challanges

Germany has played a key role in reviving efforts by the so-called Middle East quartet -- made up of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States -- to help bring about a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians.

Berlin has invited foreign ministers from the Middle East, Europe, the United States and several other countries to a conference on June 24 on efforts to assist the Palestinians in building up their police forces and justice system as steps toward creating a viable state.

During his trip to the Middle East, Steinmeier will visit Beirut, Jerusalem and Ramallah.

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