Country Reports

Visit of the Federal Chancellor Dr. Merkel

The visit of the Federal Chancellor in the Palestinian Autonomous Territories went along with great expectations und significant interest. After all she was the first high-ranking representative of a Western country, actually any foreign country at all, who visited the Palestinian Territories after Hamas winning the elections on January 25. The press coverage was accordingly high.
The Federal Chancellor met only with the President of the Palestinian Authority and Chairman of the PLO Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). A short press conference took place subsequently. There were no meetings with other Palestinians.

Mrs. Merkel highlighted in the talks vis-à-vis the Palestinian side as clearly as she had done in Israel earlier on the three conditions for cooperation with the future Palestinian government whatever its shape may be:

- Acknowledging Israel’s right of existence

- Distancing itself clearly from any resort to violence

- Accepting all progress in the peace process reached so far and

all agreements with Israel

Only on the way of the peace process as laid out by the road map the Palestinians could reach their goal of living in prosperity and security having an own state living in peace with its neighbours. Clarity has to be reached very rapidly if the peace process can continue. With President Abbas she agrees on this topic.

The President thanked Mrs. Merkel for her great support in the past and emphasized that the political line of the Palestinian Authority will not change. In the next two weeks, talks would be held on forming the new government. Abbas highlighted his determination to stay in office, to go through with his legislative period and to carry forward the peace process.

The press conference was broadcasted live on Al-Jazeera and Palestinian television. All three Palestinian daily newspapers reported on the visit on their front page, unmistakably and clearly reproducing the three conditions posed by the Chancellor for future cooperation. On the other hand, the international press interpreted them as a conditioned promise of further assistance: The door remains open and cooperation will continue if the requirements are met.

Thomas Birringer

31st January 2006