Germany "stands alongside Israel" during this challenging period in the region, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said at the outset of a meeting Friday in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Westerwelle, who arrived for a day of talks in Jerusalem with Israeli leaders, and a day of talks Saturday with Palestinian Authority leaders, said that Germany wants to work together and support Israel. "That is the substance of our friendship," he said.
Westerwelle said that the German-Israeli relationship was not only a "strategic alliance," but also a friendship between societies, people and governments.
The German foreign minister said Berlin backed the recent US initiative to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks.
Neither Westerwelle nor Netanyahu referred in their opening statements to a recent hiccup in the relationship, first reported Monday by The Jerusalem Post, having to do with Germany's announcement that it will seek membership in the UN Security Council in 2019. By doing so, Berlin is weakening Israel's chance to win its first ever seat on the body that year.
Israel announced already in 2005 it was putting forth its candidacy for the 2019 slot as part of the Western Europe and Other (WEOG) regional grouping. Belgium has also put forth its candidacy for the position.
Israel is the only country in the region, and one of the few countries in the UN, that has never sat on the Security Council, a body that historically has had a tremendous impact on Israel and the region. The issue is to be raised during Westerwelle's talks.
In addition to meeting Netanyahu, Westerwelle is also meeting on Friday with Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, President Shimon Peres and MK Avigdor Liberman.
Netanyahu, before the meeting, called Westerwelle, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany "friends" of Israel.
Netanyahu said that the Middle East was in a period of unprecedented instability, and that he was closely following the challenges that the fluid situation was posing to Israel.
In a possible reference to his recent lightning visit to Russia and a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Netanyahu said he would travel wherever is needed, and meet with whoever necessary, to ensure Israel's security.
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