Netanyahu in Berlin next week for talks with Merkel

Prime minister to meet with German chancellor ahead of joint government session with ministers from both countries

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after arriving in Jerusalem on February 24, 2014. (Sebastian Scheiner/AFP)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after arriving in Jerusalem on February 24, 2014. (Sebastian Scheiner/AFP)

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel will host Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next Thursday for talks, as part of a regular annual meeting of the two countries’ cabinets.

The two leaders will hold bilateral talks before joining a plenary with ministers from both sides, in what would be the sixth such meeting.

Such “government consultations” is a format Germany has with only a handful of countries, including India and China.

Germany is widely seen as Israel’s strongest European ally, but their ties have been strained in recent years. Merkel has frequently joined Western leaders in criticizing Israel’s settlements in the West Bank.

Netanyahu strongly opposes a deal hammered out between six world powers, including Germany, and Iran ending a 13-year standoff over the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.

Netanyahu will meet Merkel less than a week after returning from the UN General Assembly in New York. During a speech lasting three-quarters of an hour on Thursday, the prime minister devoted almost 30 minutes to discussing the deal with Iran.

At the end of August, Merkel called out Iran for failing to change its hostile attitude toward Israel, even as her country is seen as one of those slated to gain mostly from financial deals with a Tehran not under economic sanctions.

“I think Iran has a lot of influence over what happens in Syria,” Merkel said at a news conference in Berlin, according to Reuters. “Everyone is welcome to participate constructively in the negotiations.”

The German chancellor went on to state that she was “disappointed” by Iran’s pugnacious approach to the Jewish state.

“It is not acceptable how Iran continues to talk about Israel,” Merkel said, according to Reuters. “It is a disappointment that there has been no change as far as the recognition of Israel goes.”

A month earlier, Merkel’s minister of economy traveled to Iran as the head of a delegation of business people.

During his visit to Tehran, Sigmar Gabriel, accompanied by dozens of German business leaders, said the nuclear accord struck in Vienna in early July “established the foundation” for boosting security in the Middle East, but Israel should fall within such discussions.

While Germany was willing to re-engage with Iran on economic matters it would not preclude leaders in Tehran having to “bear new responsibilities, at home and abroad,” said the vice chancellor.

“You must understand that for us Germans, the security of the state of Israel is also of great importance,” he said.

“I understand how difficult the debate is and we in Germany also believe that the Palestinians have a right to their own state. That must be our shared international goal.

“Good relations with Germany also means at the same time that we must not question the security of the state of Israel,” Gabriel said.

— Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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