Germany warns against unilateral Mideast moves

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Germany believes unilateral moves would be "very counterproductive" to the Middle East peace process, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle warned on Tuesday.

Westerwelle, who spoke at a joint press conference in the West Bank town of Ramallah with Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, did not specifically refer to Palestinian plans to seek UN recognition and membership in September.

But he stressed that talks between the two sides were the only way to achieve a peace deal, even though there has been no direct dialogue since late September last year.

"The German government thinks that unilateral steps would be very counterproductive -- negotiations should be the way," he told reporters.

"Germany supports a two-state solution. We support the Palestinian people in having an independent state."

Berlin has repeatedly said it would not back a Palestinian plan to seek UN recognition in September this year should there be no movement in peace talks.

Westerwelle refused to be drawn into speculation about who might be at the helm of an interim Palestinian government of technocrats, which is being put together by former foes Fatah and Hamas after they inked a surprise unity deal last month.

"It's the Palestinians' business who leads them, but we have always had a reliable partner in Salam Fayyad," the minister said.

German Development Minister Dirk Niebel, who was visiting the Gaza Strip as Westerwelle was in the West Bank, hailed the reconciliation as "an important step," telling reporters the deal could "play an important role on the path towards a two-state solution."

Later on Tuesday, Westerwelle held talks in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, then headed into a meeting with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman, an AFP correspondent said.

Earlier, Westerwelle had expressed doubts about the viability of a French proposal for a peace conference next month aimed at bringing Israeli and Palestinian negotiators together and heading off a confrontation before September.

"A conference should only be organised if it is clear from the start it has a chance to get results," he told the travelling press.

"If the conference failed, it would only complicate the situation."

Last week, Niebel told Der Spiegel magazine he would underline Berlin's reservations about the Palestinians' UN ambitions and would instead advise them to present a draft resolution calling for a peace deal based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Six Day War with mutually agreed land swaps.

France and other European countries have indicated they would recognise a Palestinian state, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she will not until a broader peace deal with Israel is agreed.

© 2011 AFP

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