Solidarity with Israel central to German foreign policy, new FM says
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Solidarity with Israel central to German foreign policy, new FM says

Ahead of maiden trip to the region, Heiko Maas reiterates commitment to Jewish state’s security, notes 70th anniversary of independence

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas takes the oath of office after the new government was appointed after German Chancellor Angela Merkel was elected for a fourth term as chancellor in the German parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, March 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas takes the oath of office after the new government was appointed after German Chancellor Angela Merkel was elected for a fourth term as chancellor in the German parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, March 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Solidarity with the Jewish state is a cornerstone of German foreign policy, Berlin’s new top diplomat said Sunday as he boarded a plane to Israel for his first visit.

“Responsibility for and solidarity with the Jewish and democratic State of Israel, standing up for its security and against anti-Semitism — that’s at the center of our foreign policy,” he said. “And it’s the compass that I followed on my way to politics.”

During his two-day trip to the region, Maas is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin. He will also visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and meet with survivors. In Ramallah, he is set to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“Every trip to Israel is special, especially a few weeks before celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the state,” Maas said. That momentous occasion is an important date in Germany, he added, “because the friendship that we enjoy today with Israel is thanks to the great men and women that made it grow. For us, it is a great gift.”

Maas, who became foreign minister earlier this month, affirmed German “continuity” regarding Middle East policy. “We want to strengthen our special connection to Israel in the future,” he said.

His talks with Netanyahu, however, may focus on some contentious issues, as Germany, along with other European states, is currently advocating for the maintenance of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, while Israel has been seeking to have the pact, in which Germany was a key partner, either significantly modified or abrogated altogether.

“Germany remains committed to the nuclear agreement with Iran in order to avoid an increasing arms race in the Middle East,” the German Foreign Ministry posted on its website on Sunday morning.

Another potential point of friction between Jerusalem and Berlin is the upcoming vote for a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council for 2019-2020.

The two countries are competing for the same slot, which dramatically decreases Israel’s chances to enter the prestigious council for the first time.

During his March 14 inauguration at the German Foreign Office headquarters in Berlin, Maas reiterated his personal commitment to Israel but also made plain that Germany will not withdraw its candidacy for the Security Council.

“For me, German-Israeli history does not only entail a historic responsibility. For me personally, it is a deep motivation of my political activity,” he said.

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