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Mideast peace

June 13, 2011

Berlin wants the Palestinians to stick to stalled negotiations with Israel over a two-state solution and abandon a plan to seek recognition as an independent state from the UN.

German Foreign Mininster Westerwelle with Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad.
Westerwelle will hold talks with Palestinian leadersImage: AP

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Development Minister Dirk Niebel are visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories on Monday and Tuesday. On the way there, they stopped off in Benghazi for an unexpected visit to the Libyan rebels.

When they finally arrive, they will try to convince Palestinians to drop their plan to gain UN recognition for an independent state outside the framework of the stalled peace process.

"We must convince the Palestinians that a unilateral declaration of independence is the wrong way to go," Niebel said in an interview with the news magazine Der Spiegel.

Niebel said he would advise the Palestinians to present instead a resolution calling for a two-state solution based on the border before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, as proposed by US President Barack Obama.

Stalled negotiations

Palestinian leaders are currently preparing to present a resolution this coming September that calls on the UN General Assembly to recognize Palestine as an independent state.

Leaders of the Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah, which govern the Gaza Strip and the West Bank respectively, agreed to a reconciliation deal last May with the aim of bolstering the Palestinians' negotiating position.

Palestinian PM Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli PM Netanyahu
Negotiations between Palestine and Israel have stalledImage: AP

Israel, however, has refused to negotiate with a Palestinian unity government that includes the Islamist Hamas since the organization does not recognize the Jewish state's right to exist, dimming the hopes of jumpstarting negotiations.

"We believe that any standstill in the Middle East peace process at the present time represents a setback, given the changes in the Arab world," Foreign Minister Westerwelle's spokesman Andreas Peschke said in Berlin.

France and other European countries have indicated that they would recognize a Palestinian state while German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Palestinian independence must be negotiated within the framework of talks with Israel.

Germany has refused to have any contact with the Islamist Hamas since it came to power in Gaza during elections in 2006.

Official talks

Westerwelle is set to meet his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Liebermann as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Westerwelle will also discuss "the progress in the development of state institutions" in Ramallah with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and prime minister Salam Fayyad.

Niebel is set to travel to the Gaza Strip to monitor the progress of bilateral development projects and to meet the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Filippo Grandi.

Author: Spencer Kimball (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Michael Lawton