(Communicated by the Office of the President)
On Tuesday, 5 March 2013, President Shimon Peres departed for a visit to
the European Union (Brussels, Paris and Strasbourg) and will conduct a series of
diplomatic, economic and security meetings with senior leaders on a range of
issues of importance to Israel including the Iranian nuclear threat, Syria's
chemical weapons stockpile, arms smuggling into Lebanon, the peace process
between Israel and the Palestinians and the strengthening of strategic relations
between Israel and the European Union.
During the visit President Peres will meet with heads of state including the
President of France, Francois Hollande (8 March), the Prime Minister of Belgium
Elio Di Rupo (6 March) and the President of Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev (6 March)
as well as with the leaders of the European Union including the President of the
European Parliament Martin Schulz (12 March), the President of the European
Commission Jose Manuel Barroso (7 March) and the President of the European
Council Herman Van Rompuy (6 March). The meetings will take place in the context
of the inquiry into the terror
attack in Bulgaria which found that Hezbollah
was responsible for the bombing and the subsequent discussions within Europe
on the consequences.
President Peres will also hold strategic meetings with the Secretary General
of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen (8 March in Brussels) and the OECD
Secretary-General Angel Gurria (8 March in Paris) before delivering a speech to
the senior economic forum of the OECD which will include hundreds of
representatives of global companies, heads of the economic committees and the
ambassadors of the member countries. President Peres will lay out his vision for
the role of global companies in creating change in the Middle East.
President Peres will conclude the visit with an historic speech in
Strasbourg before the European Parliament. The speech will be the first
by an Israeli leader before the European Parliament in its current format.
President Peres' historic speech at the European Parliament will be broadcast
live via the European Union's website.
* * *
March 6: Meeting in Brussels with EU Council President Van
Rompuy, President Peres said: "The EU can help us in putting an end to terror by
condemning Hamas because they are the center of terror, the same for
Hezbollah... I don't take this criticism that, because of the settlements, we
lost the chance of implementing the two-state solution. The most important
difficulty is not settlements but terror."
Earlier, in a meeting with several members of the European Parliament from
the European Friends of Israel (EFI) group, President Peres said: "Israel was
founded 65 years ago and has since undergone seven wars, I do not know of any
other country that withstood that kind of threat and paid such a heavy price in
terms of human lives, so I ask those that criticize us, how would you act in our
place? The State of Israel yearns for peace with its neighbors, we signed peace
deals with Egypt and Jordan and we returned great areas of land."
On the Iranian threat: "I have great respect for the Iranian
people but it is the Iranian leadership which is funding Hezbollah and other
terror groups which carry out attacks across the world, including in Europe.
Iran is not threatened by the nations of the world but Iran does not respect
international agreements and threatens the entire world. We do not want to reach
the point where Iran has nuclear weapons and Syria has chemical weapons."
On the future of the Middle East: "The Middle East is
undergoing change, and we see young people suffering from hunger, discrimination
and unemployment. Israel is only a small part of the Middle East, but I believe
that Europe and Israel should extend a hand of assistance to those countries who
wish it. We should work together for a better future for the State of Israel and
the entire Middle East."