Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle talks about the situation in Egypt and the Middle East conflict. The interview appeared in the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper on 10 December 2012.
Minister Westerwelle, the Arab Spring seems to be giving way to a new dictatorship. What can Germany and the EU do about that?
President Morsi should have the strength and determination to engage constructively with the opposition. The constitutional process was intended to bring the country together. It now looks set to cause division within Egypt. All sides now need to acknowledge that only dialogue free from preconditions can provide the answer.
There we have the analysis and the appeal. How about some action?
It is very important for the international community to stand united. The Egyptian President knows the significance of positive economic development, and you can’t achieve that without tourism and international investment – both of which rely on stability and consensus achieved within Egypt.
Is this you declaring a boycott?
No, it’s a statement of fact: the way things are now, tourism cannot be expected to reach pre-revolution levels. Moreover, foreign businesses will only invest in a safe environment.
The German Government abstained from the vote to grant the Palestinian territories observer status at the UN. Previously, Germany always coordinated its actions with Israel. Are we seeing the start of a new policy?
Our reason for abstaining is very simple. We support the Palestinians, and not just verbally; we are providing a lot of financial and practical assistance to their state-building endeavour. Voting ‘no’ would therefore have been inappropriate, and it would not have made sense to the rest of the world. But it was just as impossible to vote ‘yes’, since we are fundamentally sceptical of any one-sided measures in this highly complex peace process. Our priority is that a two-state solution needs to be reached through negotiation.
Can there be anything more one-sided than Israel’s settlement policy and the military action in Gaza?
The Israeli Government has on several occasions declared its readiness to engage in direct negotiations. As demonstrated by its responsible reaction to international negotiation efforts in the latest Gaza conflict, the Israeli Government wants consensus, stability and peace.
Do you really think that?
We are critical of Israel’s settlement policy. However, some of the criticism being directed against the Netanyahu Government is exaggerated. How is a country the size of Hesse supposed to react when it is hit by more than 1500 rockets from Gaza in the course of two years? Every government has the right and the duty to protect its citizens.
This interview was conducted by Thomas Kröter and reproduced by kind permission of the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper.