Following Medvedev cancelation, Merkel trip in doubt

Visit by German Chancellor and ministers also in doubt over Foreign Ministry workers sanctions.

Angela Merkel 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Angela Merkel 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
A day after the announcement that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev canceled his visit because of Foreign Ministry work sanctions, diplomatic officials said Tuesday the planned visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel by mid-February was also in jeopardy.
Merkel was scheduled to arrive with between seven to 12 of her ministers for the annual joint German-Israeli cabinet session, but diplomatic officials said this would be too difficult logistically to put together without a working foreign ministry, and that if the work dispute was not settled before then, this visit would also likely be called off.
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The Croatian and Slovenian prime ministers also canceled planned visits here this month because of the work sanctions.
Meanwhile, Hanan Goder- Goldberger – head of the ministry’s diplomatic worker’s committee – said the committee was considering moving from sanctions to a full strike within the next few days. One consideration that has kept the ministry employees from calling for a full strike until now, he said, was that this would mean the ministry would have no one on duty for Israelis abroad needing emergency assistance.
Negotiations with the Finance Ministry broke down last week after the Foreign Ministry employees rejected an 8-percent pay raise, which they characterized as an “embarrassment.” The workers have been engaged in a work dispute since February, trying to equalize their pay with the pay given to Defense Ministry and Mossad employees.
Goder-Goldberger said the ministry opened registration last week for a new diplomat cadet course, but that anyone who applied now had to be stupid, extremely idealistic or from very wealthy families whose parents could support them.
President Shimon Peres, meanwhile, phoned Medvedev Tuesday night and apologized that his visit was canceled. Despite the cancelation of the Israeli leg of the visit, Mevedev told Peres he still intended to go through with his regional trip, which will take him to Jordan and then to Jericho to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
In lieu of the visit, Peres and Medvedev agreed to hold a working meeting when the two attend the World Economic Forum in Davos at the end of the month. Medvedev assured the president that the cancelation of the visit would in no way impact on relations between the two countries, according to Peres’s office.
Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.