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BERLIN - German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle presented President Shimon Peres on Wednesday with the Walther Rathenau Award for outstanding lifetime achievement in international relations.
The award is named after the Jewish industrialist who became foreign minister of Germany during the Weimar Republic and was murdered by right wing extremists in 1922.
The award ceremony was attended by former German President Richard von Weizsaecker and former foreign minister and last year's award recipient Hans-Dietrich Genscher.
"It was only many years after the Second World War that we in Germany learned to appreciate the contribution of Walther Rathenau. By accepting this award you are helping us keep his memory and legacy alive," said Westerwelle.
Westerwelle praised Peres for chaperoning the strengthening of relations between Israel and Germany through his entire political career and expressed awe at his ability to overcome the pain of the past and look forward with hope to the future.
"Mr. Peres," he said, "you are known for being a man of vision and peace. Your name is synonymous with the Oslo agreements that you helped push forward."
"Our aims are now achieving peace in the region," Westerwelle continued, including "solving the Iranian problem and strengthening the moderate countries of the region."
In accepting the award, Peres paid homage to all the great world leaders who were killed for their beliefs and their spirit that remained part of humanity even after their lives were brought to an end.
Of leaders such as Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi and Yitzhak Rabin, he said, "their singing was cut short, but their songs still ring in our ears."
"I feel here today, not only the memory of the Holocaust, but a real friendship blowing out of Berlin," he said. "That friendship is worthy of the memory of Rathenau."