Westerwelle in USA: Cultivating Close Transatlantic Contacts
On May 3, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle gave a speech before the American Jewish Committee and delivered another one to mark World Press Freedom Day at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
Westerwelle gave a speech to an audience of more than 1,200 at the Global Forum organized by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in Washington. The speech focused on German-Jewish-American relations as well as the current challenges facing international politics.
Thanks for trust and friendship
Westerwelle thanked the American Jewish Committee for its trust in Germany and for the friendship of the last decades. Against the background of the Holocaust, this had by no means been self-evident. As early as the 1950s, the AJC was organizing exchange programs with Germany. What is more, the organization supported German reunification following the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Westerwelle also highlighted the importance of the transatlantic partnership. He said that it was based on shared values. Especially at a time of major challenges, this partnership was “a guiding light in a world of change.”
Iran’s Nuclear Program: We will not accept Iran playing for time
The Minister spoke about current international challenges: Iran, Syria, the Middle East peace process, as well as the changes which have swept through the Arab world.
With regard to Iran’s nuclear program, Westerwelle stated that Germany still believed in a diplomatic solution and would keep up the pressure on the Iranian regime. However, Germany was not naïve and would not accept Iran “playing for time,” nor would it accept talks for the sake of talks.
Westerwelle emphasized that Germany would not remain silent when Israel is threatened or its legitimacy called into question. Germany wanted to see Israel as a respected neighbor in a Middle East that is finally at peace.
Renewed Urgency for a Solution to the Middle East Conflict
The Minister emphasized that in the light of the sweeping changes in the Arab world, a negotiated solution to the Middle East conflict was of renewed urgency. Just like the US, Germany supported a two-state-solution: Israel’s security had to be guaranteed; and there must also be a viable, democratic and independent Palestinian state.
With regard to the situation in Syria and in the Arab region, the Foreign Minister stated that repression could not be sustained in the long term.
Among others, the Foreign Minister was accompanied by Charlotte Knobloch, the former President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and Rafael Seligmann, the founder and publisher of the new English-language newspaper Jewish Voice from Germany. In the evening, Westerwelle was the guest of honor at a dinner hosted by Robert Elman, the AJC President.
- Germany and the AJC work together closely and actively. There are a large number of exchange programs and activities. The AJC was founded in New York in 1906 by Jews of German descent. With some 175,000 members, it has become one of the largest and most important American Jewish organizations in the political arena. Its work focuses on championing human rights and pluralism as a means of fighting anti-Semitism. The AJC’s Berlin office will celebrate its 15th anniversary in 2013.
World Press Freedom Day
In the morning, Westerwelle marked World Press Freedom Day with a speech to journalists about freedom of the media in the context of the Arab Spring and also worldwide. At an event organized by the renowned NGO Freedom House, Westerwelle stated that “freedom of the press and freedom of expression are inalienable rights. They are the cornerstones of democracy and freedom.” Thanks to the brave struggle of activists and journalists for a free press, today’s international community was more than ever able to watch, to get information, to judge and to act accordingly.
Westerwelle stressed “how heavy the responsibilities of journalists are and how precious – and dangerous – their daily work can be.” The Foreign Minister reminded his audience of the attempts by regimes such as Iran’s to oppress the free flow of information through censorship. Journalists were being arrested in Belarus, while in Syria they were being attacked and killed as they reported on the bloodshed there. Germany remained resolved not to look the other way when journalists were persecuted or political opponents oppressed.