BERLIN — The German government said Monday it was mediating talks for an "amicable" end to a row over the return of a rock considered sacred by an indigenous community in Venezuela from a Berlin park.
The foreign ministry said it had put forward proposals in discussions with the parties in the protracted dispute which had led to progress "in important factual issues" but that further talks were needed.
The dispute centres on a 30-tonne rock that the indigenous Pemon people call Kueka (meaning grandmother), which they claim was given without their consent to a German artist 14 years ago by a former Venezuelan president.
Last week the indigenous community in Venezuela staged a protest outside the German embassy in Caracas to demand the rock be repatriated from its current spot as part of an outdoor art exhibition in Berlin's central Tiergarten park.
The foreign ministry "is trying in talks with all parties to mediate an amicable solution", spokesman Andreas Peschke told a regular government news briefing.
"In order to facilitate a possible handing back of the stone and at the same time protect the interests of the artist, the foreign ministry has made relevant proposals for an amicable agreement," he said.
The rock had been in the Canaima National Park, home to the Pemon, in south-eastern Venezuela until 1998, when it was given by ex-president Rafael Caldera to German artist Wolfgang von Schwarzenfeld.
The sandstone rock was transported to Germany where it was sculptured, polished and displayed as part of a project for peace called Global Stone in the Tiergarten.
Von Schwarzenfeld told AFP that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had been calling for the rock to be returned for six years based on false claims such as that the stone had been stolen.
"There are all the documents... which show that it is a present from the people of Venezuela to the German people. I am not the owner of this rock, I can't return it," he said.
The German ambassador in Caracas said last week he would pass on to officials in Berlin the rock's spiritual interest for the indigenous community and that it had always been considered a gift from Venezuela.
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