German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier reaffirmed his country’s determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons during a state visit to Israel on Thursday.
“On the Iranian issue that you raised, and its stance that threatens the stability of Lebanon and Gaza, we agree that our aim is to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons,” said Steinmeier.
The German president made his remarks in German at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.
It was the last official reception ceremony that outgoing President Reuven Rivlin will host before he is succeeded by Isaac Herzog on July 9.
Steinmeier also condemned missile attacks by Palestinian terror groups on Israeli civilians, calling it “something we will never accept.”
The German president stressed his support for a two-state solution, calling for confidence-building measures between Israel and the Palestinians.
Rivlin thanked his counterpart for leading Germany “in the uncompromising fight against antisemitism,” saying the European country “has stood firm with us in our just campaign against terrorist forces that seek to wipe us off the map.”
He also took the opportunity to thank Steinmeier for his work on attempting to arrange a deal with Hamas on freeing Israeli civilians and missing soldiers held in Gaza.
The two emphasized their deep personal friendship and their shared experiences at Holocaust memorial events.
“You are concluding your term of office, but our friendship will remain, and I thank you for all that our friendship has taught me,” concluded Steinmeier.
After the remarks, the leaders planted an apple tree in the Avenue of the Presidents in the residence’s gardens, before holding diplomatic talks.
Steinmeier and his host then visited the grave of Rivlin’s late wife, Nechama, and laid a wreath at the grave of Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl in Jerusalem.
The German president brought a stone from the presidential palace in Berlin to lay on Rivlin’s grave, per Jewish custom.
The two leaders then visited Yad Vashem Thursday afternoon, where they participated in a wreath laying ceremony at the Hall of Remembrance. They were accompanied by Yad Vashem Council Chairmain Rabbi Meir Lau and acting chair of the Yad Vashem Directorate Ronen Plot.
Rivlin will host a state dinner Thursday evening for Steinmeier and his wife.
Steinmeier is set to meet with Israel’s new Prime Minister Naftali Bennettץ
Germany’s postwar leaders have repeatedly apologized for the Nazi atrocities and the country has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in reparations to Jewish victims. Relations between Germany and Israel were difficult in the first decades after the war, but the two countries have developed close ties in recent years.
Germany launched a new initiative with the United States last week to stem an alarming rise in antisemitism and Holocaust denial around the world.
The US-Germany Holocaust Dialogue seeks to reverse the trend, which gained traction during the coronavirus pandemic amid a surge in political populism across Europe and the US. The dialogue creates a way to develop educational and messaging tools to teach youth and others about the crimes of the Nazis and their collaborators.
AP contributed to this report.