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Peace process

May 22, 2010

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has visited German troops stationed in Lebanon before heading to Cairo to discuss the Middle East peace process with Egyptian officials.

UN soldiers in Lebanon
German troops are to leave Lebanon at the end of JuneImage: picture-alliance/dpa

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle continued his three-day tour of the Middle East on Saturday, visiting 240 German soldiers stationed on the Lebanese coast before heading to Cairo.

The Bundeswehr soldiers are part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which is charged with preventing weapons smuggling by the radical Islamist group Hezbollah. The international mission has run in its current capacity since 2006, and German troops are scheduled to leave at the end of June.

Earlier on Saturday, Westerwelle held a meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Beirut. There, he told reporters that peace in the Middle East is important for the entire world, not just to those in the region.

"Conflicts nowadays are international, and that is why we feel it is our responsibility to support stability and peace," said Westerwelle.

During his talks with Westerwelle, Hariri made it clear that he hoped the UNIFIL mission would be extended. He added that security, peace and stability in the region were in the best interests of Germany.

Peaceful resolution

Hariri and Westerwelle
Westerwelle met Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri on FridayImage: AP

Later Westerwelle traveled to Cairo to meet with the General Secretary of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, as well his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Aboul Gheit. The German politician stressed the need for direct Israeli-Palestinian talks, adding that "durable peace can only be achieved in the region in a two-state solution."

Westerwelle is scheduled to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Sunday. Egypt is considered a key actor in the Middle East and an important partner in the Middle East peace process that has worked towards the initiation of the Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks, the German Foreign Ministry said on its website.

Nefertiti spat

During talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Abul-Gheit the two politicians also discussed ownership of the bust of ancient Egyptian queen Nefertiti.

German officials say the 3,400-year-old bust, displayed in Berlin's New Museum, was legally purchased in 1913.

"We will come to an agreement that will satisfy both sides," Abul-Gheit said.

Westerwelle argued that the bust was too delicate to be moved and that it was in the interest of world culture for it to remain safe in Berlin.

Westerwelle will also visit Syria and Jordan. His three-day mideast trip is designed to coincide with Chancellor Angela Merkel's upcoming trip to the Arabian Peninsula, according to diplomatic officials.

Editor: Ben Knight

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