US embassy groundbreakingends years of wrangles

5th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

5 October 2004 , BERLIN - Ending years of wrangles with German authorities, the US ambassador to Germany on Wednesday will preside over the groundbreaking for a new American embassy close to Berlin's historic Brandenburg Gate. Washington's future embassy is being built on the site of the former United States embassy which was destroyed at the end of World War II by bombing and during the 1945 Battle for Berlin between Soviet Red Army forces and the remnants of Adolf Hitler's Wehrmacht. After the 1990 Germa

5 October 2004

BERLIN - Ending years of wrangles with German authorities, the US ambassador to Germany on Wednesday will preside over the groundbreaking for a new American embassy close to Berlin's historic Brandenburg Gate.

Washington's future embassy is being built on the site of the former United States embassy which was destroyed at the end of World War II by bombing and during the 1945 Battle for Berlin between Soviet Red Army forces and the remnants of Adolf Hitler's Wehrmacht.

After the 1990 German unification the US announced it wanted to rebuild its embassy on the prestigious old location. A ceremonial plaque was unveiled there in 1993 - and then the disputes began.

Security concerns dramatically increased after the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and following the 11 September 2001, attacks in the US.

Washington's demand for a big security buffer around the downtown building led to sometimes bitter discord between American and German officials.

Gary Smith, executive director of Berlin's high-powered American Academy think-tank, admitted disputes over the embassy had been "deeply unpleasant for a number of years."

Smith hailed the role played by Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit and US Ambassador Daniel R. Coats in hammering out a final deal.

"(They) deserve great credit for resolving this US-German disagreement so expeditiously," said Smith in a dpa interview.

The embassy's site on Pariser Platz square, near the 18th century Brandenburg Gate, is about the most sensitive piece of unbuilt real estate in the nation.

The Brandenburg Gate was a symbol of German division during the Cold War given that it stood in the Berlin Wall's death strip. But on 9 November 1989, when the hated Wall collapsed, people danced on the crumbling barrier at the Gate, making it the symbol of unity.

Adding to the location's sensitivity is Germany's long-awaited Holocaust memorial which is being built on a site just behind the future US embassy.

American officials initially demanded a 30-metre buffer zone to protect against car bombs, but after years of negotiations this was reduced to 25 metres on the insistence of German authorities. To create the needed space, a street is being shifted away from the embassy and will shave off a section of land which had belonged to the Holocaust memorial.

Critics had argued the US should build away from the city centre on a greenfield site if such big security zones were needed.

Coming amid the row between Germany and the United States over the Iraq war, which Berlin strongly opposed, difficulties over the US embassy added to the worst German-American rift in the post-war era.

But German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and US President George W. Bush managed to restore cordial if not warm relations during a series of meetings earlier this year.

Thus the groundbreaking ceremony, presided over by Ambassador Daniel R. Coats and Interior Minister Otto Schily are a symbolic reminder that transatlantic ties have weathered the Iraq war storm.

Smith said German-American ties were improving following the Iraq war and both sides were seeking to elevate positive achievements.

"So this day is not only a celebration of groundbreaking but a celebration of successful US-German diplomacy," Smith concluded.

DPA

Subject: German news
 

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