Jerusalem, 12 June 1995

FOREIGN MINISTER SHIMON PERES MEETS WITH MAURITANIAN COUNTERPART

(Communicated by Foreign Minister Spokesman)

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres today, Monday, 12.6.95, in Madrid, Spain met for the first time with the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Ould Lehal. The meeting, the first of its kind, was coordinated by the Spanish Foreign Ministry which also hosted the meeting. Mauritania, whose official language is Arabic, is an Islamic nation, and a member of the Arab League. The Mauritian FM expressed to FM Peres his government’s complete support for the peace process and its readiness to offer every possible assistance in order to promote the peace process. FM Lehal said that his country represents true Islam, and that it will always supports peace between Israel and the Arab and Islamic world. According to him, Islam is not opposed to peace, and there is no greater crime than fighting in the name of Islam against the peace process. He emphasized his country’s support for peace and open dialogue with Israel and suggested as happened that he and FM Peres appear before the local and international press in order to make their meeting public. Regarding relations between the two countries – contacts will continue in order to determine the format and characteristics of relations.

Mauritania, which suffers from severe economic problems, has during the past few years, undergone democratic and economic reforms. FM Lehal said he was satisfied that his country will take part in the Amman Conference, and to appear as one of the Maghreb Islamic nations supporting the peace process without reservation.

During their meeting, the two spoke about the possibilities of cooperation in the field of agriculture, including sending Israeli experts, and hosting Mauritians in agriculture courses in Israel. Trilateral cooperation programs between Israel, Mauritania, and Spain were also discussed. The Mauritian FM warmly accepted Israeli suggestions, and it was decided to continue contacts between the two countries in order to bring the ideas to fruition as programs.

FM Peres also met with Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez. He and Gonzalez spoke at length about the Barcelona Conference which will be held this November. Peres said that the Barcelona Conference has a very important role in supporting the peace process and it is important that the European Union designate the amount of aid to projects, design a strategy, and put in place follow-up mechanisms to follow the programs’ implementations. Peres proposed that Spain take upon itself the goal of bringing closer the three religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.