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German foreign minister reaffirms Israel 'friendship'

May 17, 2013 11:47 P.M. (Updated: May 18, 2013 8:52 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Visiting German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Friday reaffirmed his country's friendship for Israel in "challenging times" for the region, as tensions mount over the Syrian conflict.

"I want to underline that in these challenging times Germany stands alongside its Israeli partners," Westerwelle said at the start of talks in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling his host a "dear friend."

"We want to work together, we want to support you and this is what our friendship is about," he added, speaking in English.

"I'm using the word friendship, which is from our understanding more than a partnership. This is not only a strategic alliance; this is a friendship between societies, between peoples and between governments."

Netanyahu said that the current upheaval in the Middle East was more acute than for many decades.

"Today the Middle East is undergoing a period of tremendous and unprecedented instability," he said.

"We have not seen such an upheaval in this region for many decades. I follow closely the rapidly changing situation around us. I follow closely the very real challenges that this rapidly changing situation poses for the security of Israel," said the prime minister.

"I will travel to wherever needed," Netanyahu added. "I will meet with whoever is needed and I'm doing whatever is needed to protect the security of the citizens of Israel, and I will continue to do so."

Westerwelle also said that Germany was fully behind US efforts to revive dormant peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

"We believe that the Middle East peace process and the work on a two-state solution should be revived now and we will do what we can to support security and a peaceful and sustainable development for Israel and the whole region."

At a meeting earlier with Westerwelle in Tel Aviv, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni slammed Russian arms deals with Syria, after US media reported further weapons shipments to the Damascus regime.

"The transfer of arms to Syria is clearly not positive and does not contribute to the stability of the region," Livni said. "Israel has the right to defend itself."
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