Merkel: Berlin stands beside Israel

Chancellor, who will be 1st German leader to speak before Knesset, says Germany shares threat of Iran.

merkel 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
merkel 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Chancellor Angela Merkel underlined Germany's support for Israel in comments released Saturday before a three-day visit to the Jewish nation, where she is scheduled to address the Knesset. Merkel said in her weekly podcast that she planned to stress Germany's deep commitment to defending Israel when she becomes the first German leader to speak before the Knesset on Tuesday. "I will raise the issue that a threat facing Israel is also a threat to us," Merkel said. "This is particularly the case regarding Iran." Merkel also called on Iran to halt its nuclear enrichment program and to respect international regulations regarding nuclear weapons. Iran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons and insists its program is for peaceful purposes. Despite three sets of United Nations sanctions, it is defying demands to suspend uranium enrichment. On Friday, Merkel spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about German plans to host a meeting this summer on the issue. Representatives from the European Union and other Arab states will also be invited to attend. Merkel and her Cabinet will leave Sunday for Israel to launch annual exchanges on a government level intended to deepen ties between the two nations. She will also hold bilateral talks and visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority; a kibbutz; and the grave of David Ben-Gurion. Germany is one of Israel's staunchest allies in Europe and a leading trade partner. It has paid an estimated €16 billion (US$24.9 billion) in reparations to Israeli Holocaust survivors, and provided more than €470 million (US$731.4 million) in goods and services to the Israeli government. "Keeping the history of the Nazi era - the Holocaust, the Shoah - in mind, it is obvious to anyone that our present - stable, friendly relations - is a wonder of history," Merkel said.