Merkel: Europe ready to promote talks

German leader meets with Livni; visits Yad Vashem; slated to meet Olmert, Abbas.

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April 1, 2007 12:58
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In her first Middle East trip as EU president, German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered Europe's help in bringing Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, trying to build on a new burst of international efforts to restart peace talks. Merkel, who met with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni early Sunday morning, said the Europeans are ready to offer support, but ultimately the sides must resolve their differences themselves. "The Europeans must not assume that they could force a solution. We can't and I don't want to do it," she said in her speech. "Within my abilities, I would like to support the sides to walk the path toward peace." Sunday's stops included breakfast with Livni and a tour of Yad Vashem. Merkel spent about half an hour at the Holocaust museum, visiting the Hall of Remembrance and laying a wreath decorated with ribbons bearing the German flag. Before leaving, she wrote in the memorial's guest book: "Humanity grows out of responsibility for the past." Later, Merkel went to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where the former physics researcher received an honorary doctorate. Merkel called on Iran to immediately release 15 British sailors and marines seized in the Gulf on March 23. "Britain has the full solidarity of the European Union," Merkel said in a speech at the university. "We demand the immediate release of the 15 British soldiers." "We admire your steadfast friendship with the Jewish people," Hebrew University President Menachem Magidor said. In the afternoon, Merkel was to meet with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas at his headquarters in Ramallah, followed by talks with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem in the evening. In Ramallah, Merkel was expected to meet only with Abbas and to avoid Palestinian Authority Cabinet ministers, even those who are not Hamas members, her aides said. Abbas will ask Merkel to deal with all members of his government and to pressure Israel to resume peace talks, said his information minister, Mustafa Barghouti.

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