Excerpts from the interview with Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in the B.Z. am Sonntag, 3 October 2010
Can you still remember your emotions 20 years ago today?
I already had tears in my eyes listening to Hans-Dietrich Genscher speaking to the GDR refugees in the West German embassy in Prague. On 3 October, when Germany was finally reunited, we were so happy we could hardly breathe! I was born in 1961, the year in which the Berlin Wall was built as an instrument of repression. Before I turned 30 that Wall had been torn down, from East to West, by courageous men and women. This was a triumph of freedom of which I have very personal memories.
When I was 13 I travelled to Berlin with my father. We stood on a platform near the Reichstag and looked at the Wall with its barbed wire and the “death strip”. My father said there were mines hidden under the ground to kill people wanting to visit their relatives. That’s when I started thinking about German unity. I soon heard about the great publisher Axel Springer. His example at that time encourages us today to stand by what you know to be right and not to be moved from the course you have embarked upon.
Speaking as foreign minister now, can you tell me when and how the Bundeswehr will be withdrawn from Afghanistan?
I can’t give you a definite date. But we want to work towards the prospects for withdrawal by the end of this legislative period. This includes handing over responsibility for security to the Afghans by 2014. We will begin the handover in individual regions next year. This is what I discussed again with my colleague Hillary Clinton last week in Washington, along with the problems in the Middle East.
When will there finally be a greater chance of peace?
These are vital days and hours for the Middle East. Today the Israeli Cabinet will meet for consultations, as will the Palestinians and the Arab states over the next few days. I appeal to all sides in the region not to commit the fatal error of breaking off the peace talks now. We want a two-state solution with an Israel within secure borders, coexisting peacefully with a viable, independent Palestinian state. Freezing settlement construction would be a major step towards achieving that goal.