The Jerusalem Post
May 8, 2009 - 12:00am

A day after Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman wrapped up his first diplomatic trip to Europe with a meeting with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin, German lawmakers on Friday said the visit left them somewhat disappointed.

"It was a swan song of soft power in every way," Werner Hoyer, a foreign policy expert for the pro-business Free Democrats told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper, according to a translation provided by the German English language Web site The Local. "Lieberman sees us Europeans as a pile of cowards."

In his meeting with Steinmeier, Lieberman urged Berlin to support boosting ties between the EU and Israel and not to condition the planned upgrade on the progress of peace talks with the Palestinians.

Steinmeier called on Lieberman to abide by previous agreements with the Palestinians and to back a two-state solution.

"It's important to strengthen moderate forces in the region and actively engage in peace efforts," Steinmeier said in a statement after the meeting.

The two discussed the new government's foreign policy review, which Lieberman said would be completed before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meets with US President Barack Obama later this month, Steinmeier said.

Nevertheless, Hoyer told Berliner Zeitung that he saw "no noticeable outlook for a secure Israeli future" during the visit.

Meanwhile foreign policy expert for the center-left Social Democrats Gert Weisskirchn said Lieberman focused mostly on containing Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas.

"If I try to frame it in a positive light, then Lieberman is playing the role of the bad guy," Weisskirchen said, adding that although Lieberman spoke of the threat from Iran, he didn't recommend military action.

The lawmaker said Lieberman had described peace negotiations thus far as an "industry" of fruitless diplomatic meetings.

However, Weisskirchen said the foreign minister didn't directly criticize a two-state solution and that he urged the European Union to provide assistance to the Palestinians.

Vice head for the environmentalist Green Party's parliamentary group Jürgen Trittin spoke in tough terms regarding the steps Germany expects Israel to take.

"Germany expects the Israeli government - and Foreign Minister Lieberman - to stop building settlements, for settlers to retreat from the West Bank, and for promises made in Oslo and Annapolis to be kept," Trittin told Berliner Zeitung.

Lieberman's trip this week also took him to Italy, France and the Czech Republic.


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