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German and Israeli presidents talk politics, pandemic

March 16, 2021

Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed counterpart Reuven Rivlin to his home to discuss Germany's relations with Israel, the situation in the Middle East and how to combat the coronavirus.

Israeli President Rivlin and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier elbumping in Berlin
Steinmeier (right) and Rivlin have built a close relationship over the years during visits in Jerusalem, Auschwitz and BerlinImage: Wolfgang Kumm/dpa/picture alliance

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed his Israeli counterpart, Reuven Rivlin, to his residence at Schloss Bellevue in Berlin on Tuesday.

According to Steinmeier's office, the two discussed the current state of affairs in the Middle East and Germany's relationship with Israel. Moreover, they discussed the pressing issue of the coronavirus pandemic and global vaccine distribution.

After Tuesday's meeting, Steinmeier praised Israel's success in the pandemic, congratulating Rivlin. The German president said that his country and others could learn from Israel's pragmatic and professional approach. 

Israel is widely perceived to currently have one of the world's most effective vaccination programs, with 4.3 million of the country's 9 million residents having received two shots and a total of 5.2 million with at least one. 

Steinmeier also spoke of Israel's trust in the Federal Republic of Germany, calling it "a great joy and a great responsibility." He noted that much had changed in the Middle East since the two politicians saw each other last year and he voiced support for a "two-state solution" as the best path to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. 

Steinmeier and Rivlin emphasized the common goal of stopping Iran's nuclear ambitions, with the German president telling reporters, "We share Israel's security concerns."

And though Rivlin said recent treaties signed by Israel and Arab neighbors had sparked hopes that moderates would carry the day, he said the opposite had been the case in Iran — where hardliners seem ascendant once again — "The international community must speak decisively and stand uncompromisingly against a nuclear Iran," he said, adding, "We are counting on our friends in Europe."

The two heads of state are known to have a good working relationship, with memorable meetings in Jerusalem, Auschwitz and Berlin. Steinmeier was scheduled to make a state visit to Israel in spring 2020, but the pandemic halted the plan.

After Berlin, Rivlin will travel to Vienna and Paris, where he will meet with Alexander Van der Bellen and Emmanuel Macron, respectively.

js/aw (AFP, dpa)