Germany's chancellor and Jordan's king underlined the urgency of using a window of opportunity to move toward Israeli-Palestinian peace and spoke out Saturday against external interference in Lebanon.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, met King Abdullah II before a trip to the Middle East next week and a meeting Feb. 2 of the so-called Quartet of Middle East peace brokers.
Abdullah said their discussion "centered on the need to take advantage of the opportunity that exists today to push Middle East peace."
"There is now international consensus about the dangers of failing to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the core conflict in our region," he said at a news conference.
He also expressed his "appreciation" to Merkel for Germany's role in pushing for a revival of the Quartet _ the U.S., the EU, Russia and the U.N. _ whose meeting will explore ways of reinvigorating peacemaking.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are expected to hold three-way talks next month with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, although no date and venue have been set.
Merkel has stressed the importance of close contacts with other countries in the region. Her Feb. 3-6 trip will take her to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
"I am taking with me the idea that we have a window of time in which we can solve, at least move forward a bit, the political problems between Israelis and Palestinians," Merkel said of the trip, which also is aimed at strengthening economic ties.
"I am taking with me the feeling that we must use this window, otherwise we will experience much greater threats," she added, without elaborating.
Merkel said she and Abdullah agreed that it is important to strengthen Lebanon's sovereignty and "do everything so that the government of (Prime Minister Fuad) Saniora can be successful."
Saniora is locked in a power struggle with Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies. The U.S. and other donor nations back Saniora and say Lebanon must be defended from meddling by Iran and neighboring Syria.
"The chancellor and I are both very concerned about external interference in Lebanon's sovereignty and call on others to respect the country's democratic process and institutions," Abdullah said Saturday.