German foreign minister in Israel
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel layed a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, as his visit to Israel happened to coincide with the country's official Holocaust Remembrance Day. Two minutes' silence were held in Jerusalem while sirens blared out across the city on the day dedicated to commemorating the 6 million Jews systematically killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II.
After his visit to Yad Vashem, Gabriel proceded to the grave of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews by employing them in his factories, located in then-occupied Poland and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
Gabriel has described the now friendly ties between Germany and Israel as "a gift that we can only accept with gratitude and humility in awareness of the break with civilization that was the Shoah," using the Hebrew word for the Holocaust. Gabriel himself has a close relationship with Israel, having traveled there often since his youth.
Warning of violence
Foreign Minister Gabriel arrived in Israel on April 24 chiely to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Nethanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as well as other key officials to discuss the stalled Middle East peace process. Earlier, in the Jordanian capital, Amman, Gabriel warned of the danger of a fresh eruption of violence in the Middle East if the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians was not restarted.
"Waiting too long will open up a new field of play to the terror organizations of this world," he said. "If we neglect this conflict, it could cause a new series of violence in the region of a kind we have not yet seen in the past few years."
He said that the conflict should retake its place at the focus of international politics, with Germany obliged to take an "active role" in resolving the situation.
However, he also highlighted the decisive role played by the United States, whose policy on the issue under the new administration of President Donald Trump still remains unclear.
Gabriel also called on Europe to play a greater role in resolving the long-running civil conflict in Syria, rather than leaving negotiations up to the United States and Russia.
Peace process in tatters
Peace efforts in the region have been stalemated for several years. Former US Secretary of State John Kerry made intensive attempts to advance the so-called "two-state solution," in which the Palestinians would be given their own autonomous state alongside Israel, but talks broke down in 2014.
Since then, Netanyahu's plans to accelerate settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and a law passed in February to retroactively legalize thousands of homes built on privately held Palestinian land, have helped inflame the already tense situation in the region.
Some reports suggest that these Israeli actions led to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cancelling a summit with Netanyahu that was due to take place in Jerusalem in May.