Netanyahu, Merkel meet in Germany on Mideast

AP , Thursday 7 Apr 2011

Israeli and German leaders meet amid talk of international support for Palestinian statehood and to discuss recent Middle East developments

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcome each others at the Chancellery in Berlin Thursday 7 April 2011. (AP)

Israel's prime minister met Germany's chancellor on Thursday amid Israeli fears that European countries will push for endorsement of a Palestinian state in virtually all of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.

German officials said issues for discussion between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel included possible steps to break the stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and the recent developments in the Arab world.

Netanyahu was expected to raise Israeli worries that Germany, France and Britain will push later this month for the "Quartet" of Mideast peacemakers,  the European Union, the United Nations, Russia and the United States, to endorse the principle of a Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders.

The Palestinians have said they won't resume talks with the hardline Netanyahu unless there's a clear framework and Israel halts all illegal settlement construction in Israeli-occupied Palestinian lands.

Netanyahu argues that spelling out the end point would limit Israel's negotiating leverage and that endorsing Palestinian positions on borders would remove a key 'incentive' for them to restart talks.

Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war.

Netanyahu has said he would not give up east Jerusalem, the Palestinians' hoped-for capital, and has not said how much of the West Bank he is prepared to give up. He has said Israel needs to keep West Bank areas with large Israeli colonies or those close to major Israeli population centers.

Israel withdrew from Gaza, now governed by the Islamic militant group Hamas, in 2005.

Britain's foreign secretary, William Hague, said this week that Britain, France and Germany believe negotiations should be based on "1967 borders, with land swaps, a just settlement for refugees and Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states."

German officials said this week, however, that there is no new joint German-French-British proposal.

After leaving Berlin, Netanyahu was to hold talks later Thursday in Prague with Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas.

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