(Deutsche Welle) Germany abstained from the UN General Assembly vote on whether or not to grant the Palestinians observer status. Stephen Szabo, an expert on US-European relations, says Berlin walks a fine diplomatic line.
Deutsche Welle: Earlier this week, Germany signaled that it would vote against the Palestinian bid for UN observer status. But then Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle announced that Berlin would abstain. Why would Berlin decide to abstain from this vote?
Stephen Szabo: They don’t really agree with what the Israelis have been doing in Gaza. Obviously Germany has a special relationship with Israel, so it has to be careful. But at the same time, I think it’s not sympathetic with the American position on this and wants to show they have some independence … without being too critical of Israel.
During the Libya uprising in March 2011, Germany abstained from the Security Council vote authorizing the creation of a no-fly zone, which its NATO allies ultimately enforced. Does Germany find it difficult to take a clear position on high-profile international issues?
Yes it does, because it’s going through a transition period from having a foreign policy that was sort of contracted out to the United States, to one now that is essentially more of a German foreign policy. Also, it is confusing because the Europeans don’t have a consistent or coherent policy, so the Germans are sort of caught in the middle. They’re expected to play a more independent role, but they’re not used to it. I think at this point they’re still feeling their way, but they’re moving toward having what I would call a more “normal” foreign policy. The kind of foreign policy a country like France or Britain would have.