Germany's Merkel to back Kerry peace efforts during Israel visit
BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she will lobby on behalf of Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry when she visits Israel on Monday.
Kerry, who held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris on Thursday, is trying to nudge both sides at least to agree on a framework deal by the end of April although months of negotiations have made little visible progress.
Kerry says he is still seeking an overall accord to end the decades-old conflict, whose main issues include borders, security, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.
"We need a stable two-state solution as soon as possible, with a Jewish state of Israel as well as a state for the Palestinians," Merkel said in her weekly video podcast on Saturday.
Without such an agreement, neither Israel nor the Palestinians would have a prosperous future, she said.
"We should provide as much help as we possibly can to support Secretary of State Kerry's efforts with his Middle East negotiating partners," she said, adding she would discuss what hurdles remain with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Merkel will take her cabinet with her to Israel for the two-day visit.
Palestinians want a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel captured those areas in the 1967 war, and in 2005 pulled its troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip - land now hedged in by an Israeli blockade and run by Hamas Islamists opposed to Abbas' peace efforts.