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Israeli president Reuven Rivlin kicks off three-day Germany visit

The Israeli president has been received with military honors by his German counterpart Joachim Gauck in Berlin. His visit marks 50 years of diplomatic relations with post-war Germany.

At the start of his three-day visit, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin received an official welcome in Bellevue Palace, the German president's official residence.

Gauck and Rivlin, who crossed the red carpet to Bellevue in a close embrace, are marking 50 years of diplomatic relations between West Germany - and then Germany - and Israel.

The two countries took up diplomatic relations on May 12, 1965. The anniversary comes just three days after the 70th anniversary surrender of Nazi Germany and the end of the Holocaust. East Germany did not have diplomatic relations with Israel, partly because of the GDR's outright support for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).

Gauck stressed that the relationship between the two countries would always be special and that: "We Germans are aware of our moral responsibility with regard to the Jewish people and the state of Israel, and we will not allow this awareness to fade."

Rivlin recalled that he was one of the students who protested the arrival of the first German ambassador in Israel in the 1960s, as "a friendship between Germany and Israel didn't always seem natural." But today, he stressed, "I travel to Germany to mark 50 years of a very close friendship."

Deutschland Joachim Gauck empfängt Reuven Rivlin PK

Gauck and Rivlin stressed the friendship between Israel and Germany

Despite the generally amicable atmosphere, Gauck reiterated Germany's desire for a two-state solution, which Rivlin, as well as Benjamin Netanyahu's government oppose.

"We continue to feel responsible to bring about a two-state solution," he said, while Rivlin once again rejected the approach, while acknowledging that "Jews and Arabs are destined to live together."

Rivlin then went to the station in Berlin's Grunewald district to lay a wreath at the Platform 17 memorial, commemorating the thousands of Jews who were deported to concentration camps from the station's platform 17 during World War II.

He warned that "no nation is immune to anti-Semitism and xenophobia" nor "extremism and fundamentalism," stressing that international cooperation as key to fighting "attacks on human dignity."

Rivlin will meet Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Tuesday.

ng/kms (dpa, AFP)

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