German foreign minister to tour Mideast

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BERLIN: German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will tour Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan this week for talks on a relaunch of the Middle East peace process, his spokesman said Wednesday.

Westerwelle will embark on the trip Friday in Lebanon, holding political talks with top officials including Prime Minister Saad Hariri and visiting the German contingent of the UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL.

In Cairo on Saturday, he will meet Arab League chief Amr Moussa and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, his spokesman Andreas Peschke told a regular government news conference.

Later in the day, he will see King Abdullah II of Jordan in Amman before wrapping up the trip in Syria with a meeting with President Bashar Al-Assad.

"The Middle East peace process will be the focus of the talks, in particular the regional dimension of the Middle East peace process, that is, how the neighboring states can seek constructive solutions to the conflict," Peschke said.

The trip comes amid fresh indirect negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians launched on May 9.

The so-called proximity talks were first agreed in March but the initiative collapsed within days when Israel announced plans to build 1,600 settler homes in east Jerusalem.
The Palestinians eventually agreed to enter the talks after receiving US assurances that the project would be frozen.

The tour also coincides with renewed tensions between Syria and the United States and Israel, which accuse Damascus of supplying missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon and undermining regional stability.

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