Merkel.jpg
Photograph: EPA/MICHAEL KAPPELER

German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with military honours on Tuesday at the start of talks between the leaders, which are likely to focus on the prospects for peace in Syria, as well as between the Palestinians and Israel.

Netanyahu has been accompanied to Berlin by a group of his ministers, with Tuesday's talks forming part of the regular cabinet consultations between Israel and Germany, which last year celebrated the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties.

The visit will also give Netanyahu an opportunity to express on the record in Berlin his opposition to last year's nuclear deal between Iran and a group of world powers, including Germany.

However, officials say that Syria is likely to dominate the talks between Merkel and Netanyahu following last week's negotiations to launch a truce between the warring parties.

Merkel sees reaching a solution to the Syrian conflict as a key part of her plans to stem the flow of refugees into Germany and Europe. As a result, she has stepped up her diplomatic efforts to try to resolve the five-year civil war.

Israel has provided some assistance to rebels battling Syrian government forces and has also launched airstrikes against Syrian and Hezbollah targets.

Last week Netanyahu proposed the construction of a security barrier around Israel to prevent the effects of the Syrian war spilling over onto his nation's territory.

The consultations between Germany and Israel had been scheduled to take place four months ago, but were cancelled after a sudden outburst of violence in Israel forced Netanyahu to delay the talks.

Tuesday's meeting – the sixth set of consultations between Germany and Israel - is set to be a rather sombre affair, with a recent wave of Palestinian stabbing attacks on Israelis undermining international hopes of brokering a peace solution in the region.

As the visit began, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier confirmed Berlin's calls for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an interview with the daily Bild.

Israeli and German ministers and officials are also set to draw up plans to tackle cybercrime and a joint development aid programme for Africa.

Merkel and members of her cabinet ministers regularly conduct meetings with their counterparts from other nations with close ties to Berlin, including France, China and Poland.

The German capital has been on high alert since Monday, when the Israeli premier arrived.

His visit coincides with the Berlinale film festival, with authorities working to ensure that road blocks and heightened security are no great hindrance to the throngs of film fans in the city.

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