German FM on Middle East trip

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Germany's foreign minister will head to the Middle East on Sunday to visit Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Berlin said, as the Palestinians bid to become the 194th member state of the United Nations.

Guido Westerwelle will hold talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Sunday, Jordan's foreign minister and king on Monday, before travelling to Israel to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

His spokesman Andreas Peschke told a regular briefing that Westerwelle would "again touch on the possible ways and means to restart direct talks" on the Middle East peace process during his visit.

Concerning the UN bid, expected to be formally launched on September 20, Peschke said: "What the Palestinians are going to present is not all that clear yet ... because they have not yet completed their internal discussions."

The European Union's foreign policy supremo Catherine Ashton is also to travel to the Middle East next week for talks on the Palestinian push.

Westerwelle and Ashton would be in contact before the trip, Peschke said.

Washington has already confirmed it would veto Abbas' UN bid, a move also opposed by Israel.

© 2011 AFP

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