Joint German-Israeli projects proceed despite flotilla flap

“We have a very strong and stable relationship with Israel,” says German Economic Cooperation and Development Minister.

June 23, 2010 06:28
1 minute read.
Dirk Niebel.

dirk niebel 311. (photo credit: BPA/Bundesbildstelle)

Germany and Israel will continue to cooperate on economic and infrastructure projects, according to German Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Dirk Niebel, even though Israel refused to let him enter the Gaza Strip.

“We have a very strong and stable relationship with Israel,” Niebel told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday in Tel Aviv. “I am not an opponent of Israel, and I will never be one. In every good relationship you can have disagreements. I am Israel-minded, and we want to advance new joint cooperation projects with Israel in Africa, in areas such as water management, where both countries can share great capacities and experience.”

Germany also would like to advance multiyear trilateral projects with Israel and the Palestinians in Tulkarm and Jenin, he said.

Niebel had hoped to visit a sewage treatment plant in Gaza that is partially funded by his ministry during a four-day trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority this week. However, Israel denied him entry into Gaza on Saturday, on the grounds that Hamas manipulates visits by senior politicians to gain legitimacy.

“I needed to personally get a clear picture of the development of the sewage plant and where the funding for the project was going,” Niebel said. “Israel has missed a diplomatic chance. My visit would have been positive for Israel. My intention was to strengthen the [Prime Minister Salam] Fayyad government and declare that Hamas is not a negotiation partner, while acknowledging Israel’s security interests as legitimate.”

Niebel, who is vice president of the German-Israeli friendship society, met with President Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.

“My approach was supported by Peres as the ‘right approach,’” he said. “From the talks I conducted, I am fairly confident that during my next official visit, entry to Gaza might be possible.”

Niebel and Ayalon discussed plans for cooperation in Africa and Central Asia, especially in irrigation, agriculture and water. They also discussed establishing an international climate-change research center in Israel.

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