(photo credit: AP)
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrived late Sunday for his first visit to Israel, during which he is expected to reiterate Germany's strong position against dealing with Hamas until it disarms and disavows terrorism, recognizes Israel and accepts all previous agreements.
Steinmeier cancelled a trip that was to take place last month before the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel because he wanted to take part in a parliamentary debate dealing with his role in a controversy over intelligence cooperation with the US during the Iraq war.
Both German and Israeli officials said emphatically that Steinmeier would have no contact with anyone related to Hamas when he goes to Ramallah on Tuesday to meet Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa. Merkel made crystal clear her opposition to dealing with Hamas during her visit here.
Steinmeier became foreign minister in November, following Merkel's victory and the formation of a "grand coalition" that includes Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD) of former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Steinmeier ran the chancellery under Schroeder from 1998.
Steinmeier is scheduled to meet Monday with Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.