Fischer welcomes US'snew role in Middle East
7 February 2005, CANBERRA - German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on Monday welcomed the re-engagement of the United States in the Middle East peace process and hailed President George W. Bush's visit to Europe as a sign of improving transatlantic relations. "We highly appreciate the re-engagement of the US in the Middle East peace process," Fischer said while on a visit to Australia. "Given the new situation there, this offers, I think, a new opportunity." Speaking at Parliament House in Canberra after
7 February 2005
CANBERRA - German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on Monday welcomed the re-engagement of the United States in the Middle East peace process and hailed President George W. Bush's visit to Europe as a sign of improving transatlantic relations.
"We highly appreciate the re-engagement of the US in the Middle East peace process," Fischer said while on a visit to Australia. "Given the new situation there, this offers, I think, a new opportunity."
Speaking at Parliament House in Canberra after talks with Prime Minister John Howard and his Australian counterpart Alexander Downer, Fischer welcomed the impending visit of President Bush to the Brussels headquarters of the European Union.
"This is a very important signal," said Fischer, who was flanked by Downer at a joint press conference. Fisher also welcomed a pledge by President Bush to cut US agricultural subsidies and highlighted the differences within the 25-member EU on trade subsidies.
"Our position in Germany is quite clear: we are free traders," he said. "There are different interests within the European Union and the European Union is compromised by this." He added: "We must seriously work on that to reach a consensus within the European Union."
Fisher is on the second leg of a nine-day sweep through the region that takes in East Timor, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and the tsunami-ravaged Indonesian province of Aceh. It's his third visit to the region in eight months and underscores Germany's desire to match its commercial footprint with a deeper political connection.
Fischer, Germany's most popular politician, flagged the possibility of joint German-Australian aid projects in devastated Aceh.
"There is excellent cooperation between our military and Australia. We are looking forward to cooperation, especially maybe common projects in those regions. We are looking at maybe common projects," Fischer said.
He heaped praise on Australia for its quick start in helping those whose lives were overturned by the Indian Ocean tsunami on 26 December. "We highly appreciate what Australia has done in terms of immediate relief in Aceh," Fischer said.
The Australian foreign minister was equally warm in celebrating the generosity of the German government in committing EUR 500 million (USD 653 million) and the German public an equal amount.
"It's an amazing contribution," Downer said. "We particularly appreciate what the German government and the German people have done."
The Australian government has committed USD 770 million (AUD one billion) to help Indonesia, with the public raising almost AUD 200 million.
Fischer refused to be drawn into commenting on a tongue lashing Howard gave France and Germany while attending the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this month.
Howard berated France and Germany, saying there was "an irrational level of anti-Americanism" in Europe.
"We didn't discuss about these issues," Fischer said. "I never ask would, or should, or could questions."
Fischer also declared that he had not raised the issue of Germany's desire for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council during his first ever visit to Australia. "It was not an issue which was discussed," he said.
During his stay in Dili, the East Timor capital, Fischer had been asked to lobby Australia to be more generous in sharing with the world's newest country the oil wealth from joint development fields in the Timor Sea.
Fischer was diplomatic: "These pending issues should be settled by the friendly governments," he said.
Fischer, who leaves Australia for New Zealand on Tuesday, declared that Berlin and Canberra were firm friends. "Our relations are excellent, trade is flourishing, tourism is doing the same," Fischer concluded.
Australia was a participant in the invasion of Iraq, which Germany opposed. But Downer was anxious to put disagreements over Iraq in the past. "We're pleased at the efforts the Germans are making in Abu Dhabi in training police," Downer said.
Subject: German news