Palestinian leader Abbas praises Germany′s role in talks | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 20.01.2012
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Middle East

Palestinian leader Abbas praises Germany's role in talks

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has expressed gratitude to Germany for its role as a mediator in talks with Israel. Abbas, who was visiting Berlin, said he respected Germany’s good relations with both sides.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud and Merkel said there were still high hopes

"Time is of the essence." These were the words that Chancellor Angela Merkel used in appealing to the Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace negotiations.

The window of opportunity remained open, Merkel said, following the talks with the President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday in Berlin. Her comments were made as talks took place between delegations of both sides, in the Jordanian capital Amman, to find a way to resume formal negotiations.

A message of thanks

Abbas thanked the German government for its support, both on a material and political level. The country had helped in the building of Palestinian state institutions and was also in a position to be helpful in the peace process, enjoying good relations with both sides.

A general view of new Jewish housing in the Israeli settlement Har Homa

Israel has been condemned for continuing to build

"The fact that Germany is a good friend of Israel does not bother us, because Germany is also a good friend of the Palestinians," Abbas emphasized. Palestinians understood the historical reasons for Germany's support of Israel, said Abbas, and they respected them.

In the discussions, Abbas said that he had informed the chancellor of continuing building of permanent Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. He had also drawn attention to certain practices of settlers in the occupied territories, such as uprooting olive trees belonging to Palestinians and setting fire to mosques.

Israel settlement policy

Negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians were broken off in September 2010, after the Israeli government refused to extend a temporary moratorium on the construction of settlements. Since then, more homes for Jewish settlers have been built in the occupied territories, with tensions particularly high over East Jerusalem. Of particular concern is the so-called "Area-C," which covers more than 60 percent of the West Bank. Here, according to the Oslo Accord, the Israelis have exclusive control.

Berlin is the second stop of a tour of Europe by Abbas, who first visited Britain and who is due to travel on from Berlin to Moscow. After arriving in Germany, he was received by German President Christian Wulff at the presidential residence, the Schloss Bellevue.

The aim of the visit was to inform leaders about the talks that began at the beginning of the month between Israeli and Palestinian representatives in Jordan. No breakthrough has yet been made in the negotiations, which were expected to last until January 25. The date is the deadline set by the "quartet" - which includes The United Nations, EU, Russia and the US.

Israeli soldiers block Palestinians waving national flags

Israel wants its soldiers on Palestinian territory for decades after any peace deal

Within the three months that follow, both parties are to submit proposals for dealing with security problems and put forward suggestions over borders. Even this time period is a source of division. According to the Israeli interpretation, the three-month period runs from the beginning of the talks, ending in early April rather than the end.

Upper-house talks

The Palestinian side was prepared to make far-reaching concessions on the question of security, Abbas said in an interview with the president of Germany's upper house, Norbert Lammert. It had conceded that Israeli troops could remain on Palestinian land, together with NATO forces, for three years after a peace agreement. However, Israel had demanded that its army be stationed in the West Bank for a further 40 years. According to parliamentary sources, Lammert did not believe that such a long period seemed plausible. At the same time, the Bundestag president was reported to have said that he understood Israel's security concerns.

The previous trip Abbas made to Berlin was in May last year - the German government has been holding regular talks with the Palestinians for the past two years.

Author: Bettina Marx / rc
Editor: Nicole Goebel

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