(photo credit: AP [file])
Dispelling fears that Germany is reluctant to back new sanctions against Iran because of its strong commercial ties with Teheran, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier made it clear Thursday that Germany is in sync with other Western powers.
Speaking at a news conference in Tel Aviv after talks with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Steinmeier made it clear that Germany would not stand in the way of tougher sanctions.
"Germany's position does not differ from that of the United States or some other European countries. If Iran refuses to provide answers, we should think about the possibility of European sanctions," he said.
Asked if Germany would support further sanctions, he said, "Yes, if what we are trying now is not successful, then we must not only think about sanctions, but also decide on them."
"The right way is the [United Nations] Security Council," he said, but if no agreement was reached there, one would have to think about European sanctions.
After holding talks with Steinmeier earlier in the day, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel attached great importance to Germany's position. "The prime minister stressed the importance he ascribes to Germany's strong support of the continued expansion of sanctions against Iran," Olmert's office said in a statement following the meeting.
Germany is one of six powers involved in talks over Iran's nuclear program.
Steinmeier and Olmert also discussed the upcoming Annapolis conference on the Middle East.
The meeting was an important milestone in "creating the needed umbrella to continue and to widen the existing peace process between Israel and the Palestinians," the prime minister said.
Livni, after her meeting with Steinmeier, denied that Israel was trying to drag out negotiations with the Palestinians.
"Israel is not interested in buying time. That is not the case at all," she said. But she reiterated Israel's opposition to setting deadlines in the peace talks.
"Creating timetables, which are often not carried out, as it happened every time in the past, creates expectations that are then not carried out, and create violence and terror." Livni said.
"I hope the Palestinians understand that it's not in the Israeli interest to seek delays, but to implement as is necessary, based on the required stages," she said.
Steinmeier, meanwhile, said he had presented Israeli and Palestinian leaders with an EU action plan for aid to the Palestinians. The plan is meant to prevent overlap in aid projects and focuses on areas such as strengthening the Palestinian Authority police, promoting education and aiding small and mid-sized businesses.
In Berlin, the German Foreign Ministry announced it would provide â‚¬1 million to help feed refugee families in the Gaza Strip. The money will go to the UN Relief and Works Agency.
Livni also met Thursday night with Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei, their second meeting in two days.
The sides have stepped up contacts ahead of this weekend's return to the region of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in an effort to narrow the gaps on a joint statement of principles to be presented to the Annapolis conference.
PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad confirmed that he would be working with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the US security coordinator in the region, Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton, to try to implement the first phase of the dormant road map peace plan.
Olmert said Thursday the road map was still the framework for peacemaking. "I am confident that at the end of the day we can reach an agreement," he said in Tel Aviv. "Then we will have to implement it, we will have to implement it according to the phases of the road map."
Also Thursday, Middle East Quartet envoys met in Jerusalem.
A diplomatic source said the talks focused on US diplomatic efforts in the region ahead of the Annapolis gathering.