German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is starting a trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories. He hopes to give new impetus to the stalled peace process in the region - a task that could prove difficult.
During his two-day visit, Steinmeier is to hold talks in Jerusalem on Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who currently also holds the post of minister of foreign affairs.
Steinmeier will also meet with Tzipi Hotovely, who, as new deputy foreign minister, is in charge of day-to-day functions at the ministry.
In Jerusalem, Steinmeier is also to be presented with an honorary doctorate by the Hebrew University.
The German politician will then travel on to Ramallah in the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority has its seat, followed by a trip to the Gaza Strip on Monday to assess reconstruction in the territory in the wake of an Israeli offensive last summer that caused widespread damage.
The United Nations says around 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed in the offensive, which Israel launched in a bid to put an end to militant rocket fire from the coastal enclave. Seventy-three people were killed on the Israeli side, 67 of them soldiers.
On his trip, Steinmeier intends to try and breathe new life into peace negotiations between the two sides, which have stalled for some months.
Germany favors a solution to the conflict in which the Palestinians would receive their own independent state.
During his campaign ahead of March elections that saw him re-elected for a fourth term, Netanyahu said no two-state solution would be implemented during his current period in office, but has since adopted a more moderate tone.
Hotovely is known for her hardline stance toward Palestinians and opposes ceding them any captured land, a position that could also hamper the revival of peace talks.
Steinmeier's visit comes as Germany and Israel celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations.
tj/jil (dpa, AFP)