FM Levy Meets EU Commision President Prodi

(Communicated by Foreign Ministry Spokesman)
February 29, 2000

Minister of Foreign Affairs David Levy and the President of the EU Commission, Romano Prodi, met yesterday (February 28) in Jerusalem, and discussed the state of the peace process.

With regard to the negotiations with Syria, Minister Levy stated that Israel is interested in the resumption of the talks, despite the fact that Syria’s position and its intentions are a mystery to Israel.

Levy stated: "Syria is vacillating, taking one step forward and two steps backward, alongside the hateful incitement and abuse which leaves us doubtful as to Syria’s true aims and intentions."

"This incitement is intended to weaken Israel, instead of strengthening the process. Does peace mean surrender?" asked Minister Levy.

"We have done our utmost, but what can we do when faced with a leader who is unyielding? A leader that does not provide answers to basic questions, such as his perception of peace, the demilitarization of the Golan, cooperation on the water issue, etc. The Syrian refusal to deal with these matters is unacceptable."

"We are ready to meet with them every day and at every opportunity in order to discuss everything, including the issue of territories, but we will not accept preconditions or their unwillingness to speak positively about peace – something which is necessary for the restoration of trust which has eroded," stated Minister Levy.

Minister Levy went on to say that Syrian Minister Farouk A-Shara’s ‘Phased Plan’ leaves Israel thinking that "if this is the actual ideology, then it poses a danger to us. We are not prepared to abandon our security in the name of peace. One who wishes to make peace cannot be coerced into doing so. One must convince the people of Syria’s intentions to make peace, but these expressions of hate and incitement erode confidence in regard to their true intentions."

Regarding the peace process with the Palestinians, Levy stated that "on every occasion that there is an element of support for Israel, the Palestinians respond as if this is at their expense, and this leads to crisis. Negotiations of this kind cannot continue. We are ready to take risks and to make painful concessions, and we are doing our utmost to ensure that this process will be realized."

Concerning the situation in Lebanon, Minister Levy said that Lebanon is weak and subjugated. "If Lebanon were not so weak, we could reach a peace agreement with it within twenty four hours. We are determined to leave Lebanon by July 2000. We hope to do so with an agreement that will end the tension, but we could also leave without an agreement."

The President of the EU Commission, Prodi, proposed the involvement of Europe in the process and referred to the European wish to play a diplomatic role, rather than just providing an economic contribution to the advancement of the process. "The peace process involves economic guarantees and, therefore, Europe seeks a more active role, also because of its good relations with Syria and the Palestinians. Europe has not been utilized sufficiently, and this is a shame", Prodi said. He added that "the spirit of peace is led by economic realism and, therefore, it is absolutely essential to strengthen the economic dimension, alongside the restoration of trust which has eroded. The peoples of the region must make an economic and political choice, and the EU will be happy to be an active participant in the process."

Minister Levy said that he believed in Europe’s ability to pass on its values to the peoples of the region, but this would not work as long as hatred prevailed. "We will welcome your involvement in bringing about reconciliation, calm and in providing suggestions that will allow for a smooth negotiations process, and an end to the language of hatred which endangers us all".