Egypt on the mind as Merkel brings ministers to Israel
German diplomats convene in Israel for joint cabinet session; Blair meets PM ahead of Saturday’s Quartet parley.
By HERB KEINONAn urgent EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels to deal with the crisis in the Arab world led German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to arrive in Israel Sunday for a brief visit, instead of arriving Monday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and much of her cabinet.Westerwelle on Sunday evening had a meeting with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that, in addition to the diplomatic process and Iran, was also expected to focus on Egypt and the rapidly changing situation in the Arab world.RELATED:White House: Time for reform to come to Egypt Westerwelle, who was originally scheduled to take part in a joint German-Israeli cabinet meeting, will leave the country for Brussels before Merkel arrives.Egypt is also expected to be a major focus of discussion when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meets Merkel Monday.Merkel is expected to arrive Monday afternoon for a joint government meeting with the Israeli cabinet, several hours after eight of her ministers arrive. This will be the third such joint meeting between the governments of the two countries since 2008.The German ministers are slated to meet for bilateral consultations with their Israeli counterparts before the joint government meeting.One of the bilateral accords to be signed will be a letter of intent to increase bilateral cooperation between Israel and Germany in assisting developing countries.Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon will sign the agreement with the German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Dirk Niebel. The first project will be the rehabilitation of contaminated regions in Kenya adjacent to Lake Victoria.Netanyahu, discussing the joint meeting before Sunday’s cabinet session, said that Israel and Germany have many joint economic, security and diplomatic interests, and “our desire is to move the peace process forward.We see Germany as a central anchor in our relations with Europe, as one of the most important countries in Europe, and one of the most important countries to Israel.”One of the issues the Merkel and Netanyahu are expected to discuss is the upcoming Quartet meeting in Munich on Saturday, where Israel expected to offer a package of confidence- building measures to the Palestinians, partly as a way to blunt any harshly critical statement coming from that meeting.The last Quartet meeting was held in September on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.One diplomatic source, however, said that with events rapidly unfolding in the Middle East, it was not clear that the Israeli-Palestinian agenda would be the main focus of that meeting. In what appears to be preparation for the Quartet parley, Netanyahu met Sunday night, for the second time in a week, with Quartet envoy Tony Blair.Merkel will stay on through Tuesday, when she is to receive an honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University. She will also participate in a conference at the Institute for National Security Studies on “Security Challenges of the 21st Century.”
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