The two Ministers began with a visit to the House of the Wannsee Conference memorial and educational site. This was where German ministry officials and civil servants planned the mass murder of European Jews in 1942. Remembrance work is an important priority for the Federal Government. The Federal Foreign Office provided some of the funding for the complete renovation of the exhibition at the memorial, the work being finished in January 2020.
After the visit, Maas said:
Seventy-five years after the end of the Holocaust, the fact that an Israeli Foreign Minister is visiting Berlin is still not something to be taken for granted. That you are here now, at a turbulent time for Israeli domestic and foreign policy, underlines how close the relations between our two countries are.
Exchanges among young people are an important aspect of remembrance work, but also of German-Israeli relations. It is in particular the diverse interpersonal and civil-society contacts that make German-Israeli relations unique. When Maas visited Jerusalem in June, the two Ministers agreed to strengthen German-Israeli youth exchange. Now, in Berlin, they will be discussing the concrete steps necessary to that end.
Israel is currently a particular focus in foreign policy: mediated by the US Administration, Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed to normalise their relations. In return, the Israeli Government announced the suspension of its plans for the annexation of the West Bank. From the German viewpoint, this new momentum should be used for the Middle East peace process too, for example with an eye to renewed direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Germany is ready to actively support such processes with its partners in Europe and the region.
Cooperation between the EU and Israel
This is Foreign Minister Ashkenazi’s first trip to Germany since assuming office in March 2020, and his first trip abroad since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. He had accepted an invitation from his German colleague to have lunch with the EU Foreign Ministers prior to the start of the Gymnich meeting. This is the first time that an Israeli Foreign Minister has been a guest in this group. The Ministers intend to discuss the Middle East peace process, regional stability issues and the future shape of relations between the EU and Israel.