Federal Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer made the following statement on Tuesday (23 August) on the completion of the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and from four settlements in the West Bank:

"The German Government welcomes the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and from four settlements in the West Bank. This was a courageous decision and a historic step. The total of 25 settlements were cleared in only two weeks and thus much more quickly than initially planned. The two sides behaved in a professional and disciplined manner and showed the necessary restraint.

Now we need to see further steps rapidly. Security and a tangible improvement of the economic situation in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank are especially important. A crucial role is played here by the mission of the Quartet Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement, James Wolfensohn, whom we wholeheartedly support.

On the Palestinian side, progress on domestic reform and the strict observation of the cease-fire are central. At the same time, Israel can make a decisive contribution to the economic development of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and thus to stability and security.

The opportunities for the peace process following the clearance of the settlements now have to be taken. It is a matter of continuing along this path of reason and finding constructive solutions for the unresolved issues and for further steps within the road map framework aiming for the peaceful co-existence of Israelis and Palestinians. In this key phase, Germany will support all moves to fulfil the road map obligations and come to a final peace settlement."