(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this morning (Thursday, 20 June 2013), met with European Union Commission Vice President and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Baroness Catherine Ashton and said at the start of their meeting:
"Lady Ashton, Catherine, welcome to Jerusalem again. It's good to see you. We have great undertakings to pursue, which include peace and security. I'll start with the security. The elections in Iran will be tested by whether Iran changes its policies and stops all enrichment, takes out the nuclear material and shuts down the illicit nuclear facility in Qom. These are Security Council resolutions. Their feet should be held to the fire. It's not a question of style, but substance. It's not a question of political spin, but the spinning of centrifuges. That has to stop, and I think that it is important that Europe joins the United States and Israel and all responsible elements of the international community, and demand a cessation of the Iranian nuclear program.
The second point relates to Iran's proxy and adjunct, Hezbollah. I hope that those in Europe who refuse to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization will change their mind, and I hope there will be a European consensus on this. I mean, it's hard to see how you cannot have a consensus on Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. If Hezbollah isn't a terrorist organization, I don't know what is a terrorist organization. I mean, they're butchering people left and right across the world and now in the cities of Syria. They're murdering civilians without letup, including on European soil, as was discovered in Bulgaria, as they try to do in Cyprus. So I would say the designation of Iran's proxy Hezbollah as a terrorist organization is our second hope that Europe would do, and it would do the right thing.
And the third is the right thing by peace. Secretary Kerry is undertaking an effort to resume direct negotiations without preconditions between the parties. That's the right thing to do. Israel is ready to resume these talks without preconditions today, yesterday and tomorrow. I hope that President Abbas will do the same, and I hope that Europe will support this effort because it's the right thing to do.
So I know that we'll have an opportunity to talk about it. I know you've expressed your opinion on these matters more than once, and I look forward to hearing it again today.
Baroness Ashton said: "Thank you. Prime Minister, can I just say what a great pleasure it is to see you, to be back in Jerusalem, back in this great nation, to say first of all that I'm fully supportive of the work that Secretary Kerry is undertaking. I know he's travelled many times already to talk with you, to talk with President Abbas. And as I've made clear, I'm fully supportive of his work. I said this in Ramallah last night, I say it here in Jerusalem, that we want this to be the way forward, to bring direct negotiations and Europe will support that wholeheartedly. It is, as you rightly indicate, the way forward.
I also want to say that it is, of course, vital that you are confident in the security of your country. That is paramount to this country. I understand that and appreciate that, and it plays a big part in the approach that we take to these efforts that are going forward. And I wish you well in so doing.
Prime Minister, we have much to talk about, and I know how important it is to have the chance to consult with you about the situation after the elections in Iran. I'm privileged to lead the negotiations in our twin-track approach. I also recognize that it's important that we consult with those who have a deep interest in this and that we have a chance to think about the broader region on the questions that concern us all and I hear what you say, especially on your concerns about what's happening with Hezbollah. And we will talk about these things.
But more than anything, thank you so much for the welcome to Israel."