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Merkel says Iran nuclear talks in 'decisive weeks' in final visit to Israel

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Merkel says Iran nuclear talks in 'decisive weeks' in final visit to Israel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the Iran nuclear deal and the importance of a Palestinian state in her final visit to Israel on Sunday. Pool Photo by Menahem Kahana/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 10 (UPI) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the importance of reaching a nuclear deal with Iran during a trip to Israel on Sunday.

Merkel, making her farewell visit to Israel after 16 years as chancellor, said that negotiations to return Iran to a nuclear deal had reached "very decisive weeks" while speaking during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

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"We should send Iran an unmistakable message," Merkel said.

Adding that Iran hasn't signaled it wants to return to talks, Merkel warned that the nation continues to enrich uranium each day that goes by without a deal.

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"I never considered the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] to be ideal, but it's better than having no agreement," she said.

Bennett echoed Merkel's concerns, noting that Iran's nuclear program is at its "most advanced point ever."

"A nuclear weapon in the hands of such a radical, violent regime will change the face of the region and of the world," he said. "For us, it is not a strategic problem. It is an existential problem."

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Merkel also declared that "Palestinians should be able to live securely in a state" criticizing the construction of Israeli settlements on occupied territories as unhelpful.

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"Even if at this stage it seems almost hopeless, the idea of a two-state solution should not be taken off the table, it should not be buried," she said.

Bennett said that Israel is not "ignoring the Palestinians" referring to them as "neighbors" and saying neither were "going anywhere."

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"At the same time, we have learned from experience that a Palestinian state means that it is highly likely that a terror state will emerge seven minutes away from my own house," he siad. "I am a very pragmatic person. We are undertaking a series of actions on the ground in order to make things easier for everyone, for Jews, for Arabs, in Judea and Samaria, and in Gaza."

During her trip Merkel also visited the Holocaust Museum and received an honorary doctorate from the Israel Institute of Technology.

She was not scheduled to meet with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Palestinian leaders.

In recognition of her final visit, Bennett called Merkel a "dear friend of Isreal" and declared the bond between the two nations was the strongest it has ever been.

"We are looking forward to strengthening them even more, in business, science, education, health and of course in security," he said.

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Merkel also painted an optimistic picture of their ongoing relations, saying Israel's security will be a top priority for "every German government."

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