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Westerwelle optimistic after talks with Netanyahu, Abbas

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has struck a positive note during his visit in the Middle East. It came after Israel published a list of prisoners' names who are to be released as part of fresh peace talks.

Guido Westerwelle said he had seen on both sides "the genuine will for a successful outcome of these peace talks" and that the peace process was "at a decisive precipice."

He warned that there were elements on both sides of the conflict in the Middle East that were not interested in successful peace negotiations, but that "it's those elements that we must not strengthen."

"We have to strengthen those that are calling for balance and who want to build bridges," the German foreign minister said after meeting both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday.

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Westerwelle backs Mideast peace process

His visit in the region came ahead of fresh peace negotiations that start in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

Ahead of the talks, Israel published a list of 26 prisoners who are to be released as part of a US-brokered deal to restart peace talks. Westerwelle welcomed the news, saying that Israel "had implemented what was decided on."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had demanded the release of the prisoners as a condition for renewing talks with Israel, which had run aground in 2010 in a dispute over Jewish settlements.

During a meeting with Netanyahu, Westerwelle was critical of Israel's plans for 1,200 new flats in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank. But he also said that "we need to acknowledge that a moratorium [on new settlements] is not a precondition for talks."

However, both sides, he said "should avoid anything that could hinder talks."

During his meeting with Abbas, Westerwelle assured the Palestinian president of Germany's support in rebuilding the Palestinian territories.

Netanyahu criticized the EU for its stance on Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, saying they "had undermined peace."

The EU published guidelines last month that will ban its 28 member states from dealing with or funding any Israeli "entities" in the occupied Palestinian territories, including the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

ng/ccp (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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