Germany's foreign minister pledged on Thursday to stand up for the security of Israel and urged a tough line against Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calling his denial of the Holocaust "unbearable."
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, speaking at a parliamentary debate marking the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel, said Germany's responsibility toward Israel due to its role in the Nazi Holocaust meant it had to "take a stand against the Iranian president's talk time and again."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has faced international criticism for saying Israel should be "wiped off the map" and questioning whether the Nazi Holocaust, that killed 6 million Jews, actually took place.
"His denial of the Holocaust is as unbearable as his questioning of Israel's right to exist," Steinmeier said. "There must be clear messages on that."
"The Shoah, the millionfold murder, the immeasurable pain Germans inflicted on Germans and other Europeans of Jewish faith is part of our history. Daily remembrance and daily dealing with the Shoah ... is, will and must be part of our future," Steinmeier added.
Steinmeier said relations between Germany and Israel would always be special, adding that defending the existence and the security of the state of Israel had to remain a constant feature of German foreign policy.
Germany has proven a staunch ally of Israel and often has stressed the historical responsibility for the country, due to its own role in the Nazi Holocaust.
"From the responsibility for the past grows the commitment for the future," Steinmeier said in a speech in Berlin's restored Reichstag building. He also underlined Germany's desire to do more to help advance efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.
The minister is planning a four-day trip to Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories starting this weekend. The trip comes ahead of a June 24 conference in Berlin expected to focus on the Palestinian police and justice systems.
On Thursday Steinmeier said that beyond diplomatic efforts more concrete measures are needed to show people in the region that the path to peace is worth it.
Chancellor Angela Merkel attended Thursday's debate, but did not address the legislature.
In March, Merkel visited Israel and became the first German head of government to address the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, saying that Germans are filled with shame over the Holocaust.
During that visit - part of official celebrations of the May 8 anniversary - Israeli and German Cabinet ministers held a historic joint session and approved a series of cooperative projects.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now