olmert merkel 298 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday apologized for "misunderstandings" involving German forces and Israeli planes off the Lebanese coast and pledged that they would not be repeated.
The German government said Chancellor Angela Merkel had "expressed her concern over the incidents" of the past week in a telephone conversation with Olmert, who earlier Sunday met with a delegation from her party.
Peretz to meet his German counterpart
In mid-October, Germany took charge of the multinational naval force patrolling Lebanon's coastline to prevent arms shipments from reaching Hezbollah guerrillas following the recent conflict with Israel.
Last week, German officials have said, Israeli jets fired in the air over a German intelligence-gathering ship in international waters. Israel denies that shots were fired and said the planes approached a helicopter after it took off Tuesday from a German ship without notifying Israeli forces.
The Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported that a German naval helicopter was approached on Thursday night by Israeli jets. The German Defense Ministry confirmed that the incident occurred, but said it was not a threatening situation.
At the meeting with lawmakers from Merkel's party, Olmert "apologized for the misunderstandings of last week," his office said in a statement.
It added that he "noted to the Germans that there would be direct communication between the German force and Israeli forces in order to ensure that a similar event would not happen again."
Merkel and Olmert then spoke by phone.
A German government statement said Olmert had repeated his assurance that such incidents would not recur, and added that he said "Israel would in future better coordinate the movements of its air force with UNIFIL," the UN force in Lebanon.
Olmert's office said he "emphasized the central, important role the German forces have ... the great respect (he) has for this historic participation of the German force, and his great hope that they will continue to participate as they have until now."
Volker Kauder, the parliamentary leader of Merkel's Christian Democrats who met with Olmert, said he was satisfied.
"The prime minister said these were misunderstandings, that he regrets this very much, and that he has given orders so that this kind of thing doesn't happen again, and I think that is sufficient," Kauder said on ARD television.
Earlier Sunday, Germany's Defense Ministry said Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung would visit the region later this week on a trip that will include a visit to the German contingent.
Jung will meet in Tel Aviv on Friday with his Israeli counterpart, Amir Peretz, a ministry statement said. Also on Friday, he is to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and Defense Minister Elias Murr in Beirut.
Germany did not send front-line ground troops to Lebanon, partly because of worries that they might risk coming into conflict with Israeli troops - a sensitive point in view of Germany's Nazi-era history.