US President Barack Obama, in Germany on Friday, called for action to push forward the Middle East peace process and stressed Washington's desire for a dialogue with Iran.
"The moment is now," the president told a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after talks in the eastern city of Dresden.
"The United States can't force peace upon the parties," he said in reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "But what we've tried to do is clear away some of the misunderstandings so that we can at least begin to have frank dialogue."
Obama stressed that to do that, the two parties would need strong partners such as Germany, adding he was under no illusions how difficult it will be to find a peaceful solution.
Merkel said Germany was interested in having a secure state of Israel as well as a viable Palestinian state.
Highs and lows of Germany's past
Obama met with Chancellor Merkel Friday morning at his hotel in the center of Dresden, which was flattened by Allied bombing towards the end of World War II.
After a short meeting, the two toured some of Dresden's highlights, including the Gruenes Gewoelbe museum and the recently rebuilt Frauenkirche.
The two leaders held a press conference before travelling west by helicopter to visit the former Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald, located just outside the city of Weimar, where they are expected to meet Holocaust survivors.
Balancing the Arab-Israeli conflict
The trip to Buchenwald, were an estimated 56,000 people perished, was proposed by the White House, and is being seen as a way for Obama to balance out a speech he gave in Cairo in which he called for a fresh start in relations with the Muslim world.
In that speech, Obama included a scathing indictment of those who question the Holocaust, and by visiting the concentration camp, the US president can show that the mass genocide of Jews by the Nazis has not been forgotten and that the US will always remain loyal to Israel.
The official program of Obama's visit to Germany has been cut to just over half a day. US officials said this was due to security concerns. Some observers, however, suspect cooling relations between Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who will not be accompanying the two on the trip, are to blame.
Obama will also be touring the US military hospital in Landstuhl to meet American soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then he will head off to France where he will join President Nicolas Sarkozy on the beaches of Normandy on Saturday for ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the Allied D-Day landings.
This is the Obama's third trip to Germany in the past year. He was here while campaigning last fall and again at the beginning of April to attend a NATO summit jointly hosted by Germany and France.
Editor: Nancy Isenson