Germany asks Israel for gesture on settlements (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) 05/30/12)
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German President Joachim Gauck asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu on Wednesday for a gesture on the issue of West Bank
settlements, which the international community define as illegal.
"Germany and Europe would be grateful for any sign on the settlements
issue. We regard this issue as key for the peace process," a
presidential spokesman quoted Gauck as telling his host.
But Gauck assured Netanyahu that the close relationship between the
two countries would remain steadfast.
"Our friendship is not in danger," he was quoted as saying.
"Gauck and Netanyahu agreed that we share common values even though
we have different opinions on some issues," the German spokesman said.
Israel-Palestinian peace talks have been stalled since late September
2010 over an intractable dispute about settlements.
Palestinians say they will not resume negotiations unless Israel
freezes settlement construction and agrees to base any future talks
on the lines that existed before it captured the West Bank in the
1967 Six-Day War.
Israel says the settlement issue should be negotiated as part of a
permanent peace accord and wants to retain sovereignty over the most
heavily populated clusters of its West Bank enclaves.
There was no joint statement or press conference after the afternoon
talks in Jerusalem, but an Israeli official said the meeting "took
place in an excellent atmosphere."
Germany, considered the European country closest to Israel, has
repeatedly expressed its strong disapproval of the pro-settlement
policies of the Netanyahu government, which leans heavily on the
settler movement for its support.
Gauck is to visit the West Bank on Thursday for talks with
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and prime minister Salam Fayyad at
their Ramallah headquarters. (Copyright © 2012 Agence France Presse.
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