Merkel meets Peres, to address on last day of Israel visit

(dpa) - Opening the last day of her three-day visit to Israel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Israeli President Shimon Peres Tuesday morning.

She is due to hold more talks with Israeli politicians, including Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, later in the morning, before debating the situation of the Christian community in the Holy Land with German church officials in Jerusalem in the early afternoon.

The highlight of her last day - and visit - will be her address to the Knesset in the afternoon, which she is to hold in German.

Merkel is the first foreign head of government to receive an invitation to address the Israeli parliament.

Thus far, only heads of state, including two German presidents and most notably former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1977, have spoken in the Knesset plenum.

A number of Israeli legislators have announced they will stay absent in protest, saying that holding the speech in German is "insensitive" to Holocaust survivors living in Israel.

On Monday, Israel and Germany further tightened their friendly relations by signing a bilateral agreement for further military, cultural, political and economic cooperation.

Israel held the first ever joint cabinet meeting with Germany, or any foreign country, attended by by 17 ministers of both sides, including Merkel and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in Jerusalem.

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