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Kohl: Germany Has a Special Historical Responsibility to Israel but Also a Tradition of Friendly Tie

March 5, 1984
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West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, while maintaining his government has not decided whether to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, stressed today that although Germany has a “special historical responsibility” to Israel, it also has a “tradition” of friendly ties with Arab states.

“It is not a question of either nor, it can only be a question of both/and,” he said in an appearance on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press.” But while saying the arms deal with the Saudis has not been decided, Kohl stressed he has ruled out selling the Saudis the Leopard II tanks.

The arms agreement, which is strongly opposed by Israel, is expected to be one of the topics of discussion when Kohl meets with President Reagan at the White House tomorrow. It will certainly be discussed during a meeting later tomorrow between Kohl and Jewish leaders led by Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress.

Kohl, who is a Christian Democrat, pointed out that he is a successor to Conrad Adenauer, West Germany’s post-war Christian Democratic Chancellor who he noted “initiated compensation” to Israel. “I come from a family which was anti-Hitler so I have no personal problem,” he added. “I have always been in sympathy with the State of Israel and for the Jews who have made a greater contribution toward German history, toward the German people than….”

But Kohl added that Germany also has an “old tradition of friendship toward the Arab countries.” he said that while the Federal Republic of Germany, as the successor of the Third Reich, has a special historical responsibility to Israel, Germany’s future generation has “a duty and a right to establish and maintain reasonable relations with our friends.”


Kohl expressed concern about developments in the Mideast, particularly what he said was Syria’s ambitions for a Greater Syria and the Iran-Iraq war which he said may have “terrible consequences.”

He said that while Germany wants Israel to, live behind secure boundaries, the best way to ensure that was for it to establish agreements with moderate Arab governments. ‘What was possible with Egypt under (the late President Anwar) Sadat should also be possible with King Hussein, and I hope will be possible with the Saudis,” he added.

Kohl noted that it was the Saudis who asked the Germans for the arms and not a German initiative. He stressed that Britain and France are already selling arms to Saudi Arabia. He did not mention the source of most of Saudi Arabia’s arms, the United States. “Saudi Arabia will not attack Israel,” Kohl argued. “Everybody knows that who has seriously gone into this question.”

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