German FM: Mideast peace pact 'a bit closer'

A peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians is now "a bit closer," Germany's foreign minister said Thursday, calling on the international community to keep the momentum going by providing as much support as possible. "I think there's a true chance, and the American government is determined to engage itself more. There's a big chance that a two-state solution, of which we've talked for a long time, can now come a bit closer," Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters after addressing the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Steinmeier said one could see that "first, encouraging steps" have been made between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. On Wednesday, Steinmeier met in Berlin with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was on a tour of Europe to brief officials on what she said were positive signs from her recent meetings with leaders in the Middle East. In one of the key outcomes of her talks in Jerusalem and the West Bank, Rice won agreement for a future three-way meeting between her, Olmert and Abbas.