Cameron, Merkel headed to Israel next month

Cameron, Merkel headed to Israel next month

Diplomatic official denies report British and German leaders' visits are tied to peace talks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameronin Germany on April 12, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Pool/Fabrizio Bensch)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameronin Germany on April 12, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Pool/Fabrizio Bensch)

British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will both visit Israel next month, Foreign Ministry officials said Wednesday.

The leaders will make the trips within days of each other in mid-February, though they won’t won’t overlap.

While the trips will come amid peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, an Israeli diplomatic official denied an Israeli TV report that the purpose of the visits was to push along peace talks.

The official told the Times of Israel that while the leaders will likely comment on the peace process, it will not be the focus of the visits.

The visit will be the first to Israel for Cameron since he was elected prime minister in 2010.

Cameron told Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein in early December that he would visit Israel sometime in 2014. He also said he would “happily” deliver a speech to the Knesset.

The two spoke at the Nelson Mandela memorial in Johannesburg.

For Merkel, the trip will be made with a number of Cabinet ministers in order to reciprocate a visit made by Netanyahu last year, in the framework of the “government to government” program.

Diplomatic offices in both countries, closed for the New Years holiday, were unavailable for comment.

News of the visits came as US Secretary of State John Kerry was expected in Israel Thursday for his 10th visit to the region as part of ongoing peace talks.

Kerry is expected to present the sides with a US-drafted framework agreement that will set the outlines for a permanent deal, allowing Jerusalem and Ramallah to keep negotiating beyond an April deadline.

Merkel last visited Israel in January 2011. Her newly installed foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is expected to make a trip to the region next week.

Berlin in particular, because of its history in the Holocaust, has been vocal about its commitment to Israel’s security, recently selling Jerusalem a series of advanced submarines at a subsidized price.

“We’ll never be neutral and … Israel can be sure of our support when it comes to ensuring its security,” Merkel told a Jewish magazine in Germany in August. “That’s why I also said that Germany’s support for Israel’s security is part of our national ethos, our raison d’être.”

Britain and Germany have both been critical of Israel’s settlement policies and have pushed for the sides to reach an agreement based on a two-state solution, though much of their involvement in the peace process has been outsourced to the European Union, which is a member of the Quartet for Mideast Peace.

The two countries were also recently party to an agreement between Iran and the P5+1 which calls for eased sanctions of Tehran in exchange for curbs on nuclear activity and more robust oversight. Israel has been critical of the deal, which has yet to be implemented.

On Tuesday, German newspaper Der Speigel reported that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani may visit Munich for a security conference at the end of January.

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