Germany, Israel forge bond over Iran threat
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German chancellor, Angela Merkel welcomed Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in Berlin for a joint cabinet meeting. They held talks on Iran's nuclear threat.
AFP- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top ministers on Monday paid a solemn visit to Germany for a historic joint cabinet meeting underlining their bond forged in the wake of the Holocaust.
Following a visit to Berlin's Holocaust Memorial Museum, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Netanyahu held talks which also addressed US-led efforts to revive Middle East peace talks and efforts to halt Iran's nuclear drive.
Merkel took a tough stance on Iran, threatening international sanctions if it did not drop its defiant line.
"We have always made Iran the offer of sensible cooperation, transparent cooperation. Unfortunately, up until now, Iran has not expressed any willingness to cooperate, meaning that we increasingly need to consider the necessity of sanctions," she told a news conference.
Netanyahu again called for "crippling sanctions" against its archfoe's bid, which Israel and the West say is aimed at developing an atomic bomb, a claim denied by Tehran.
Israeli and German ministers earlier signed a series of bilateral agreements on economic, environmental, humanitarian and military cooperation, in what Netanyahu crowned an "extremely productive session."
The one-day visit to Berlin, where the bid to wipe out European Jewry was planned, comes nearly two years after Merkel and her cabinet held a similar round of talks in Israel.
A German government spokesman said the meeting was a rare occurrence.
"Germany only has these joint cabinet meetings with very few international partners, for example France and Poland," Christoph Steegmans told reporters.
But the trip's symbolic significance was underscored when Netanyahu and Merkel, flanked by more than a dozens ministers and officials, toured the Holocaust Memorial Museum in the heart of Berlin.
"To come back here, 65 years after the Holocaust as the prime minister of Israel at the head of a ministerial delegation of an independent Jewish state, is a historic moment," Netanyahu said.
Meanwhile a top Israeli told AFP that Netanyahu was to visit the Auschwitz death camp in Poland to mark the International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27.
Israeli Science Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, whose parents survived Nazi death camps during World War II, joined the delegation as it toured the Holocaust Memorial.
"We don't forget the past. This is a past that cannot be forgotten but today Germany is a great friend of Israel," he said at the snow-covered labyrinth of more than 2,700 concrete slabs that make up the memorial, which opened in 2005.
Hershkowitz said the visit "is the answer to those who 70 years ago wanted to eliminate us."
The prime minister presented Merkel with an abstract inscription of the Jewish prayer of mourning Kadish made by Holocaust survivor Fishel Rabinowicz.
"From the prayer of the dead comes a prayer for life," Netanyahu said.
During a visit to Berlin in August, Netanyahu accepted a gift of rare blueprints of the Auschwitz death camp.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman were among members of Israel's centre-right cabinet touring with him.
According to a defence official, Barak has ordered a sixth Dolphin-class diesel submarine from Germany. Israel currently has three Dolphins and has confirmed it ordered two more.
The submarines are believed to have a range of 4,500 kilometres (2,800 miles) and the capacity to launch nuclear-capable cruise missiles.
Merkel and several of her ministers made a similar visit to Jerusalem in March 2008 in which the chancellor addressed the Israeli parliament and expressed her shame for the Nazis' systematic slaughter of six million Jews.
Germany is Israel's third biggest trade partner after the United States and China with trade volume of 4.3 billion euros (6.2 billion dollars) in 2008 and is widely considered its strongest ally in Europe.
Berlin is playing a leading role in efforts to broker a prisoner exchange between Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement for an Israeli soldier held by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip since 2006.
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