For the German Foreign Minister, showing solidarity with the people in the region affected by the escalation of violence will be the most important aspect of his trip today (20 May). Prior to his departure, he said:
This trip is an expression of solidarity with those who, day and night, must fear for their lives or even grieve their loved ones. Germany stands unconditionally by our friendship with Israel; the country must defend itself against the rocket attacks by Hamas. And our humanitarian support for the Palestinians, too, has always been dependable, even in challenging times.
Helping to calm the situation
Germany’s Foreign Minister is seeking to explore how the international community can help bring an end to the violence and contribute to a ceasefire and thus an improvement of the humanitarian situation in Gaza. In the view of the Federal Government, this first of all requires the heavy rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas to stop. In recent days, Germany has been part of concentrated diplomatic efforts to calm the situation. Foreign Minister Maas has held talks with his counterparts in Israel, the United States and Europe and with the states in the region which have influence over both sides. The EU Foreign Ministers decided during a video conference to send the new EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process to the region.
Prospects for a more peaceful future
Another priority of the trip, meanwhile, is to look further ahead to the time after the end of the violence. From Germany’s perspective, there can only be a lasting end to the violence in the Middle East when the people of Israel and the Palestinian territories are able to live self-determined lives in peace and security. It is the view of the Federal Government that this can only be achieved through a two-state solution negotiated between both sides. However, this requires the sides to take steps towards one another and towards direct talks.
The Federal Government worked last year with Jordan, Egypt and France in what is known as the Munich format to propose confidence-building measures between Israelis and Palestinians. And Germany is endeavouring to have the Middle East Quartet, which comprises the US, Russia, the UN and the EU and is an important and influential part of the Middle East peace process, increase its involvement once again.
A busy itinerary in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah
In Israel Maas will meet his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi, Defence Minister Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He will also visit the Israeli city of Petah Tikva to see how it has been affected by the heavy rocket attacks. In Jerusalem he will speak with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and in Ramallah with the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas.