Sharon crisis 'won't change' Germany's Middle East policy

6th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

6 January 2006, BERLIN - The grave deterioration in health of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will not prompt any change in German policy on the Middle East, a government spokesman said in Berlin Friday.

6 January 2006

BERLIN - The grave deterioration in health of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will not prompt any change in German policy on the Middle East, a government spokesman said in Berlin Friday.

Thomas Steg said it was too early to speak of any changes in Chancellor Angela Merkel's travel plans. She intends to visit Israel and the Palestinians this month though the government has not announced any date. Steg said the trip was still in her diary.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is scheduled to visit the Middle East January 18 to 21.

"The fundamentals of German policy on the Middle East remain firm," said the spokesman at a news conference.

"This means that we have always made plain that Israel's right to exist is unquestionable and that we have a special commitment to Israel reflecting our own history," he explained in an allusion to the Holocaust.

At the same time, Palestinians had the right to their own state.

"Our thoughts are with Prime Minister Sharon at this time," he said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said it was to be assumed the Steinmeier visit was firm whatever happened.

Since Germany was to be guest of honour at this year's Cairo Book Fair, Steinmeier wished to assure the Arab world of Germany's high regard for it and cultural exchanges, he said. Steinmeier's itinerary includes Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan.

Jews in Germany plan to say prayers at synagogue during Saturday's sabbath for Sharon, 77, said Paul Spiegel, president of the German Council of Jews representing 100,000 Jews in Germany.

In an interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Spiegel said he believed the Middle East peace process would revive even without Sharon. "I say that because there is no alternative to peace," he added.

Israel's ambassador to Germany, Shimon Stein, commented in a television interview that there was no danger of political instability if Sharon died, saying, "Israel's democracy has the mechanisms for this and seems to me completely predictable."

DPA

Subject: German news

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