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Merkel Criticizes Iran, Syria During Middle East Tour

Chancellor Angela Merkel met Emirati President Khalifa Monday as part of her efforts to revive the Middle East peace process. She used the talks to criticize Iran and Syria for their destabilizing roles in the region.


Merkel welcomed Israeli and Palestinian peace efforts but chided other regional powers

Merkel said Germany, as the current European Union president, would throw its weight behind the reconciliation talks in Mecca on Tuesday between Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas political supremo Khaled Meshaal.

"We will do everything in our power to ensure the talks are successful," Merkel said, adding the EU would stay in close contact with Saudi Arabia, which is hosting the meeting.

The Abbas-Meshaal talks in Islam's holiest city of Mecca are being held in a bid to settle an inter-factional conflict that has claimed 66 lives since January 25.

Merkel later told the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies in a speech on EU foreign policy that reaching a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is "absolutely central to bringing stability to the region."

"This is simply because other conflicts in the region cannot be solved if this conflict is yet to be settled."

She said that working towards a two-state solution is the best way forward. "This means two states where Israel would feel secure and protected against violence... and where the Palestinian people are given a state where they can prosper," she said.

Chancellor urges powers to seize their chance for peace

VAE Deutschland NahostAngela Merkel in Vereinigte Arabische Emirate Abu Dhabi

Merkel reserved her toughest speech for the UAE

Merkel also criticized Iran and Syria for their role in the Middle East and urged nations in the region to seize a vanishing "window of opportunity" to find a settlement for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Merkel, who has made progress toward peace a key goal of her country's six-month EU presidency, used some of her toughest language during her speech in Abu Dhabi."

"There are forces, in the region and elsewhere, that do not want success in these efforts," Merkel said in the United Arab Emirates' capital. "On this account we have concerns, especially with respect to Iran."

"We are worried about Iran's nuclear programme," the German chancellor told journalists after meeting Sheikh Khalifa, calling the tensions over the Islamic Republic's ambitions a "destabilizing influence." She also added that Iran's disputed role in events in Lebanon was "not helpful."

She also criticized Syria for its alleged actions in Lebanon. "Syria has not used its opportunity to play a constructive role," she said. "One step, for example, would be to recognize Lebanon diplomatically."

Economic ties also on the agenda

Merkel in Ägypten

Business as well as Middle East peace was on the agenda

Elsewhere, the meeting with Sheikh Khalifa focused on "developments in the region, notably the Palestinian question, the situation in Iraq and Lebanon" as well as economic ties between Berlin and Abu Dhabi, the state news agency WAM reported.

Merkel briefed the leader of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on "the ideas and visions of Germany concerning the problems of the Middle East, starting with international efforts to re-launch the peace process," WAM said.

Sheikh Khalifa also called for a boost to economic ties between the UAE and Germany, whose two-way trade increased 25 percent last year to seven billion dollars, according to statistics published on Monday by Al-Bayan newspaper.

Merkel travels to Dubai on Tuesday and then on to Kuwait, the final stop of her Middle East tour which began in Egypt.

In Riyadh, she met King Abdullah as well as the crown prince and foreign minister of the oil-rich monarchy, and Abderrahman al-Attiya, secretary general of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.

Merkel calls for coordination between continents

Deutschland Ägypten Hosni Mubarak in Berlin bei Angela Merkel

Merkel has reached out to leaders across the whole region

The German chancellor has called for closer coordination between international initiatives on the Middle East. "There should not be different signals coming from different continents," Merkel told journalists in Cairo.

The so-called quartet of major diplomatic players -- Russia, the United Nations, United States and European Union -- met in Washington on Friday to revive their roadmap peace plan which has made next to no progress.

The quartet also renewed its boycott of the Islamist-led Palestinian government, saying it would only be lifted if the ruling Hamas recognizes Israel's right to exist, renounces violence and accepts past peace agreements.

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