Germany: Unilateral Declaration of Palestinian State Counter-productive

Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle tells reporters in Ramallah that Germany supports the right of Palestinians to build their own state, but 'negotiations are the right way.'

Palestinian efforts to seek United Nations recognition of their state are counter-productive, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Tuesday.

While Germany supports the two-state solution and the right of the Palestinian people to build their own state, "the German government believes unilateral steps could be counter productive," he told reporters in Ramallah.

"We think negotiations are the right way," he said.

Westerwelle was on a one-day tour of Israel and the West Bank, accompanied by Development Minister Dirk Niebel, who also made a stop-over in the Gaza Strip, where he visited a sewage water purification plant which Germany is renovating at a cost of 20 million euros.

In Gaza, Niebel urged Israel to fully lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip and Palestinian militants to stop firing rockets into southern Israel.

"It's so important to have a permanent ceasefire and it's so important that Israel completely ends the blockade," he told a news conference at the Gaza City headquarters of UNRWA, the United Nations agency which assists Palestinian refugees.

Niebel did not meet with officials of Hamas.

Since Europe and North America have been boycotting the Islamist movement ruling Gaza, UNRWA has taken up the role of officially hosting foreign officials visiting the coastal enclave.

The German minister nonetheless welcomed Palestinian reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah as "an important step". He said Berlin would judge the new government according to its acts.

Visiting the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem earlier Tuesday, Westerwelle warned that the absence of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations could create a "very dangerous dead-end" and quickly lead to new violence.

The two ministers arrived in Jerusalem late Monday, after a lightning visit to the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

They had been expected to try to convince the Palestinians to drop their plan to ask the United Nations General Assembly for recognition of their state in September, in the absence of negotiations with Israel.

But they were also expected to pressure Israel into taking steps that would help the Palestinians delay their plan.

Abbas has conditioned a revival of the talks on a freeze of Israeli construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama, in a joint news conference in Washington last week, rejected out of hand the Palestinian-proposed UN resolution as a "unilateral action" that should be avoided.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, hosting Netanyahu in Rome on Monday, also backed the Israeli premier by rejecting the proposed September UN move.

But while other key European states are on the fence and Washington is strongly opposed, some 120-130 General Assembly member states are already said to have voiced support for the recognition proposal.