Merkel calls for Mideast progess by September
Chancellor Angela Merkel called Thursday on Israel to make progress in the peace process by September but said that Germany would not unilaterally recognise a Palestinian state.
"We feel that there should, and there could, be progress made by the autumn, by September 2011," Merkel said after talks in Berlin with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"When it comes to the question of recognising a Palestinian state, I repeat again that Germany is working for there to be a two-state solution," Merkel said.
"Unilateral recognitions therefore definitely do not contribute to achieving this aim... This is our stance now and it will be our stance in September."
She added: "There needs to be mutual recognition, otherwise it is not a two-state solution."
The Palestinians have pledged to seek UN recognition of their independent state within the 1967 borders and with east Jerusalem as its capital in a move widely expected to take place in September.
Germany currently holds a non-permanent seat in the Security Council.
Merkel also said that in view of the current turmoil in the Arab world, getting momentum back into the stalled Middle East peace process was "more pressing than ever."
The meeting followed media reports that the two leaders had a tense phone call in February, with Netanyahu berating Merkel after Germany supported a UN Security Council resolution criticising Israeli settlement construction.
Merkel reportedly responded by accusing Netanyahu of failing to make "a single step to advance peace."
Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert had on Wednesday denied that either party had "had a go" at the other or that the two leaders had "not followed due process" in the call.
"All calls between the chancellor and Mr Netanyahu are politically intense. This goes with the territory of the difficult problems to deal with in the Middle East and in the stuttering peace process," Seibert said.
Merkel "speaks to Israel as a particular and I believe proven friend of Israel. Mr Netanyahu knows this," he told a regular government briefing.
Merkel herself said the reports were "unrealistic."
© 2011 AFP