Joint Press Conference with Israel Deputy Prime
Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman, Deputy Prime
Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic Jan
Kohout, and EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita
statement by President J. Kohout of the EU-Israel Association Council:
This is the first part of the 9th meeting of the EU-Israel Association
Council, which is a high level forum dealing with the whole network of
our bilateral relations. We did not suspend what has been done in the
past year and discussed how to develop our relations further. It was
done in a very constructive atmosphere.
Israel is an active partner in the framework of the European
neighborhood policy. We were thus able to make good progress in
implementing a large number of priorities in the bilateral action plan,
to the benefit of both sides. We touched upon topics where our
cooperation advanced greatly - the fight against terrorism,
non-proliferation, social dialog, trade-related issues and regulatory
reforms, the business climate, agriculture, migration, police and
judicial cooperation, transport, energy, environment, climate change,
research and development, education and culture.
Our discussion has not, and could not, have covered all the
subjects of common concern. Our positions have been stated in a
declaration adopted by a consensus of the member states, and have been
presented to our partners. Our political dialog will continue over
dinner. We reiterate our will to further develop our relations in this
The decision of the European Council, in December of last year, is
still valid concerning the upgrade of the relations between Europe and
Israel. We also stress the fact that the advancement of our mutual
relations will take place within the context of our common interests,
which include the two-state solution in the Israel Palestinian conflict,
and the promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in the Middle
In this respect, the EU welcomes the initial step following the
Israeli policy review announced by Prime Minister Netanyahu, of a
commitment to a peace that will include the creation of a Palestinian
State. Thank you.
Israel Foreign Minister, Avigdor Liberman: I am taking part in the
9th [EU-Israel Association] meeting together with Mr. Jan Kohout, Deputy
Prime Minister and Foreign Minister [of the Czech Republic], as the
Presidency of the EU, and Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
We have just completed the first part of the annual meeting
dedicated to the status of Israel-EU relations. We had very constructive
discussions, which also marked 50 years of the establishment of
diplomatic relations between Israel and the EU. We are pleased to note
the progress made throughout these years and acknowledge the mutual
benefit of engaging and enhancing the concrete economic, commercial,
scientific, technological, educational and cultural ties between the
We devoted time to analyzing the best joint activities throughout
the years since our last Association Council meeting and considered
future steps to deepen our relations. The EU is Israel’s major trade
partner. More than 30 per cent of Israel’s total export is directed
towards EU markets and 40 per cent of Israel’s imports originate in EU
The political dialogue with the EU and its member states has
developed considerably in recent years. We welcome the EU’s contribution
to the efforts aimed at attaining security, stability and prosperity
that will lead to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner: Thank you very much. I said
when I started this commission of our extended relations and
neighborhood policy, indeed, the first action plan that we finalized was
the action plan with Israel and I can say in the meantime, in these
five years, I think our relations have developed very, very dynamically
and I think that this action plan in a way has played a catalyst role in
this respect, by opening doors for Israel, to several European
initiatives. And indeed, in this meeting, I have been able, and I think
that we have also agreed with our Israeli colleagues, to speak about the
different items on which we have been working, be it the agreement on
further liberalization of trade, concerning agriculture, concerning
fisheries, concerning the liberalization of trade and services,
concerning the air transport agreement, and so on and so forth. So,
there is a huge scope of our relations and I will not go into all the
details, unless there are questions. And I think that we can really
develop this scope even further, and this is, indeed, the sense and the
objective of this meeting tonight. Thank you very much.
Q: Foreign Minister Liberman, the EU, in its statement, said
that the Prime Minister’s speech last night was an initial step. Did you
discuss any further steps in your meeting and, on an unrelated point,
what expectations do you have from the EU in dealing with Iran?
FM Liberman: I think that yesterday’s speech by our Prime Minister
was a very positive and a very peaceful speech and we think that we can
move to the negotiations with the Palestinians without any
preconditions. We also expect the EU to encourage this dialogue between
us and the Palestinians, to encourage and to support the open talks
without any preconditions, and I think that it is really in our
interest, in the interest of the Palestinians and, of course, in the
interest of the EU that we reach a comprehensive solution in our region.
I think that Iran is really the biggest threat, not only for the
Middle East. But with regard to the Middle East; it is the biggest
factor of instability. I think that the Iranian nuclear program could
lead us into a really crazy nuclear arms race in our entire region and I
don’t even want to think about what could happen in that case. I think
that the international community must stop the Iranian nuclear program
with tough sanctions. We think today that with the problem in North
Korea and the difference between the two countries – that the Iranians
are more dangerous than North Korea. It must be immediate and I think
that it is in the interest of all our neighbors, of the international
community and of course, of Israel.
Q: A question for Mr. Liberman. Nonetheless, several EU ministers
did express reservations about the two specific conditions that
President Netanyahu listed for his endorsement of a future Palestinian
State. What is your reaction? And what did you tell the EU side today on
those specific points?
And on Iran, if I can ask on the EU side, there have just been some
witnessed reports that gunmen have opened fire on an opposition rally
in Teheran and one person has been killed; this despite your earlier
calls for refraining from more violence. What is your reaction to that
FM Liberman: We have our position and we have the right to our
position. Every side has its position and Mr. Netanyahu was very clear
about the Israeli position on talks with the Palestinians. But we are
ready for talks without any preconditions. And I think that this is the
most important point; direct talks without any preconditions. We are
also open to hearing the Palestinian position and we are ready for talks
with every Arab country in our region. I think that this is the right
timing and we support President Obama on regional peace, on the regional
solution and the regional solution must include bilateral relations and
bilateral talks among all the parties in the region.
Regarding the Iranian situation, in Tehran today specifically, we
have never interfered in the internal affairs of any country and the
elections and the demonstrations today in Teheran are their internal
problem. Maybe it is a problem for the international community. We worry
about their activity in the region. Their problems within their country
are their problems.
FM Kohout: I have no information regarding that, I was so involved
the whole afternoon, so I am sorry and I cannot say at this stage.
Q: Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke yesterday and he raised one of
the preconditions - that the Palestinians have to recognize Israel as a
state for the Jewish people. My question is what will be the status of
the Palestinians of 1948 who are today citizens of Israel? Are you going
to, as you said in your electoral campaign, to ask them for a
Certificate of Loyalty or something like that? And, my question to the
presidency, if Israel is advocating its right to have a religious state
as a Jewish state, why can the Palestinians not ask for a Muslim state
and the Christians not ask for a Palestinian Christian state?
FM Liberman: I think that I clarified your question before. We
have our position, we have our vision, we do not have any preconditions.
We are open to sitting with the Palestinians immediately. We are ready
to sit with the Syrians immediately. And we are ready to do the same
with the other countries; but without any preconditions. Every side has
its vision and we are ready to talk about all the questions, all the
points, but without any preconditions, and every side can explain its
position. And, in any case, we must achieve a solution only as a result
of talks and only as a result of negotiations.
FM Kohout: As far as the EU is concerned, I will quote from the
Council conclusions: The Council reiterates its commitment to the
two-state solution, with an independent, democratic, contiguous, viable
Palestinian State, comprising the West Bank and Gaza, and living side by
side in peace and security with the State of Israel. That is the
position of the EU.
Q: Is it not the problem, though, you talk about preconditions, but
has Mr. Netanyahu not set out Israel’s preconditions, in his speech?
FM Liberman: Prime Minister Netanyahu explained his position and
the position of the State of Israel and I think that it is a very clear
position. We said the same things before the elections, during the
elections, and after the elections. Regardless of our position, we are
open to any negotiations, we are open to dialog and, as I mentioned, we
are ready and we think that the solution must be the result of peaceful
negotiations, and I think that we have a right to our position, at least
as much as the other sides.