Gulf & Middle East
Merkel meets Israeli Foreign Minister Livni
Apr 1, 2007 - 2:43:41 PM

Jerusalem, April 1 - German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Sunday morning with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni as part of an international diplomatic push to get the Israeli-Palestinian peace process out of its quagmire.

Reports in the Israeli media said that after the meeting Merkel would visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust centre in Jerusalem, and was slated later in the day to meet separately with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Merkel, making her first trip to the region as European Union President, arrived in Israel Saturday night and held unofficial talks with Olmert.

According to reports, Merkel will not meet with Palestinian ministers who represent the Islamic Hamas movement in the new unity government.

The Jerusalem Post daily quoted Israeli officials as expressing displeasure at the possibility that the chancellor would parley with non-Hamas ministers. They fear it is a prelude to Europe establishing relations with the new government, which Israel boycotts.

The previous Palestinian government, formed by Hamas, was boycotted by the European Union for its failure to accept demands to recognise Israel, renounce violence, and honour previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

The new cabinet, a unity coalition in which Hamas shares power with Abbas' Fatah party and with several smaller factions, has not explicitly accepted the three demands, save for a commitment to 'respect' past agreements.

Several countries, which had boycotted the previous government, have already met with non-Hamas ministers in the new cabinet, notably Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, an internationally respected economist.

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