Diverging from current American and Israeli policy, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel last week defended his country’s controversial relationship with Iran.
“We, along with our [European Union] partners, hold the view that isolating important countries in the region does not promote the peace process,” said Kinkel at an Anti-Defamation League luncheon held in his honor.
“For this reason, we are continuing to maintain a critical dialogue with Iran, despite all difficulties,” he said.
Germany’s policy has alarmed Jewish groups, who are concerned by the recent spread Of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism and suspect that Iran plays a key role in funding these activities.
Kinkel, who received the ADL’s Distinguished Statement Award at the April 19 luncheon, also reaffirmed his country’s monetary and political support of the fragile Middle East peace process.
“We hope that the peace process, despite all difficulties, will continue to move forward,” he said. “From the start, we have supported the process both economically and politically.”
He advocated the notion that Germany and the E.U. become more intimately involved in the peace efforts, especially in light of allegations that Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat is increasingly losing control over the Palestinian population.
“Arafat thinks everything is in his control,” said Kinkel, but “I propose we [Germany and the E.U.] send more direct specialists to the region.”
Kinkel also addressed the upcoming 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. He acknowledged the “collective shame” many Germans currently feel.
Germany must be more vigilant than ever in its attempts to prevent citizens from becoming victims of racial and ethnic bias, he said.
“United Germany is aware of the obligations that stem from the past,” he said. “Only respect for human dignity, democracy and the rule of law, both internally and externally, can guarantee the peaceful coexistence of people and nations.”
ADL National Director Abraham Foxman, in introducing Kinkel, spoke of how the Holocaust has complicated his feelings toward present-day Germany.
“I am in a tug of emotion and reason,” said Foxman. “I am a survivor; it is difficult to reconcile that which memory demands and that which reason dictates,” he said, holding back tears.
Kinkel stressed the importance of fostering strong connections between Germany and various Jewish groups.
“It is so important for people who have been shaped by their difficult history,” to share their experiences, he said.
He cited a German-Israeli student exchange program that attracts thousands of students.
The Distinguished Statesman Award is given by the ADL once every several years at no prescribed time.
Past recipients include Kinkel’s predecessor Hans-Deitrich Genscher and former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.
Kinkel was given the award, said the ADL in a press release, because of his “fight against the rise of extremism in Germany.”