German minister to visit Mideast to boost peace talks

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories in a bid to lend backing to revived peace talks, a ministry spokesman said Friday.

Westerwelle will meet President Shimon Peres and the chief Israeli negotiator, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, in Jerusalem on Sunday, followed by talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.

He will then sit down with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and prime minister Rami Hamdallah before returning to Berlin.

"Foreign minister Westerwelle will express Germany's strong support for the resumption of talks under US mediation," the spokesman said in a statement.

"Germany and Europe will do all they can to lend backing to the new peace talks so they may be successful."

After three years of stalemate, talks between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators on ending their long-standing conflict began again last month in Washington under US mediation, and both sides agreed to try to resolve their differences within nine months.

The next round is to take place on August 14 in Jerusalem attended by US mediator Martin Indyk and is to be followed by a meeting in the West Bank city of Jericho.

A foreign ministry spokesman had told reporters Wednesday that Westerwelle would only travel to the region if he felt he could make a "positive contribution to the peace process", calling the effort "very difficult".