Peres warns Merkel of dangers of Mideast turmoil

1st February 2011, Comments 0 comments

The unrest sweeping the Middle East dominated the second day of talks between Israeli and German leaders on Tuesday, with President Shimon Peres warning of the possible rise of religious dictatorships.

"If the day after elections you get an extremist religious dictatorship, what are these democratic elections worth," Peres said ahead of a meeting with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Peres was speaking as the Egyptian regime wrestles with a wave of unprecedented anti-government protests, which have pitted hundreds of thousands of demonstrators against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.

He said the rise of the Palestinian Hamas, which won elections in the Palestinian Authority and then took over the Gaza Strip, should serve as an example to those backing hastily imposed democracy.

"Democracy cannot start and end with elections. Real democracy starts the day after the elections by granting human rights and concern for the welfare of the citizens," said Peres.

His remarks echo that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who warned on Monday of the dangers of an Iranian-style regime led by Islamic extremists arising out of the political chaos sweeping through Egypt.

The volatile situation in Egypt, which comes hot on the heels of the revolution in Tunisia that ousted president Zine El Abdine Ben Ali, has sparked fears in Israel about the loss of its closest regional ally, Mubarak.

Until now, Israel has stayed largely silent on the developments in Egypt, with Netanyahu ordering his ministers not to make any public remarks about the developments in Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

But during her two-day visit to Israel, Merkel has used the unrest to spur Israel to resume negotiations with the Palestinians.

"The peace process must not stand still, above all in this very volatile situation," Merkel said on Tuesday after meeting with Germans who volunteer in Israel.

"The events in Egypt must not be an excuse for stopping the peace process," she said.

Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down late last year in a row over Jewish settlement building.

On Monday, Merkel met Netanyahu and the two then hosted a joint session of the German and Israeli cabinets at Netanyahu's office.

Merkel's delegation included 10 ministers representing half of her government.

The two sides signed a number of bilateral agreements dealing with crime and terrorism, as well as cooperation on climate change and renewable energy.

During her 2008 visit, Merkel gave a landmark address to the parliament on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish state in the wake of the Holocaust.


© 2011 AFP

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