The success of Annapolis itself is launching negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on all of the outstanding issues.

 Joint press conference with FM Livni and EU Rep Solana


Joint Press Conference with Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni and Javier Solana, Secretary-General of the Council of the EU and EU High Representative for the CFSP
November 14, 2007

FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: Thank you. I would like to welcome to Israel a friend, Javier Solana. We just met last week in Lisbon as part of the Euro-Med, part of the Barcelona process, and now we have continued our discussion on the situation in the region. Javier Solana just came from a visit in Egypt and other parts of the Arab world and of course the topics that we discussed in our conversation were the relations between Israel and the EU, and our mutual understanding of the need to upgrade those relations. We spoke about the Iranian threat, the need to have another Security Council resolution, and the understanding that time works against the international community in terms of the Iranian technology. Also that there’s a need to enhance the Israeli position and to broaden the sanctions in order to see a real change on the ground.

Of course, we discussed the situation and the relations between Israel and the Palestinians before Annapolis, but mostly we discussed the day after Annapolis, the need to launch negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in order to reach an understanding on how to end the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. It was fruitful and enlightening – for me anyway. It’s part of the relations between Israel and Europe, and the need to inform and to share ideas, and I believe that basically we share not only the same values but also the same interests and the same understanding of the region. Thank you.

SECRETARY-GENERAL SOLANA: Thank you very much. Very, very briefly, because the Minister has said just about everything that has happened in this meeting, but let me underline what is important. A week ago we were together on Monday and Tuesday. We were together almost 24 hours, or 48 hours, so really our level of communication and understanding is very high. Today I stopped here because I have been with the minister in Egypt and met with the Palestinians, and I wanted to make the point here in Israel. I met with the Prime Minister this morning and now with [Foreign Minister Livni] and the other members of the government, and I will see the Minister of Defense later on, and then I will leave.

The point I would like to make is that the relationship is very fluid and almost permanent now. When we don’t talk physically; we talk on the phone, so we are having a lot of contact in this period of time.

A word about the moment in which we are living: I think that Annapolis is an opportunity and I really believe very deeply that we cannot afford to fail. Failure will be something that I don’t want even to think about, therefore everybody has to make an effort to put their utmost into cooperating for the success of the meeting. And as the Minister has said, the day after the meeting will be as important as, or more important than the meeting itself.

My impression after having talked to many of the Arab leaders and the Palestinians is that the whole process is doable. It can be done, and therefore I appeal to everybody not to be a bystander on the road. Everybody has to roll up their sleeves and try to work in a constructive manner so that the process that’s going to start ends up well. That is everybody’s wish, I think, in the region, and my wish and what I represent, which is the European Union.

Now also a word on bilateral relations: The bilateral relations between Israel and the European Union can and will be upgraded, and I will do my best in that direction. There are many places or many issues on which we can cooperate further. Let’s think about science, let’s talk about technology, in which Israel is already part of our programs and can participate in our programs – and many other things we can think of. So I think that the possibilities of upgrading that relationship is feasible and we’ll do the utmost to do it. Thank you.

Q: I’ll ask one question for clarification, with your permission, Mr. Solana. You’ve been quoted in Egypt as saying that it is not absolutely necessary that the Roadmap be the point from which both sides have to depart and it is up to the parties to decide where they go, with or without that Roadmap. Is it absolutely necessary to work upon the basis of the road map or are there other avenues?
 And Minister Livni, if you could relate to the subject of Syria. Besides participating in Annapolis, is this the time to initiate contact and put out feelers with Syria – after or before Annapolis, but in general to open this channel? And I would ask you, if I may, to relate also to the subject of the settlements and clarify this issue.

SECRETARY-GENERAL SOLANA: As you know, if the two parties get an agreement, they can do whatever they agree to do, with or without a Roadmap. What do I think? I think that they would not agree on anything that is very far from the Roadmap and therefore this is just a metaphorical question. I think that a potential agreement is around the terms of the first phase of the map. I would not say the whole of the map, but at least the first phase. I know it by heart because I wrote part of it. I think that potentially there is a way to implement whatever agreements may come out of the process that is happening in Annapolis. And I have the impression that it is practically agreed that the Roadmap will be accepted by both sides.

FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: I would like to add to this because the Roadmap was accepted and adopted by the international community as such, and this is the only plane that exists in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Basically it was agreed that at the end of the future negotiations and the understandings between Israel and the Palestinians, we are going back to check whether the first phase or the other phases of the Roadmap were implemented fully and completely – and I would like to say that I’m not in love with the Roadmap but I believe that the sequencing of the Roadmap and the fact that it is clear that the path to the Palestinian state goes through renunciation of violence and terrorism is crucial for Israel’s security, and I believe that it also serves the Palestinian interest.

So the idea is to launch negotiations right now but then at the end of the process, at the end of negotiations, we’ll find and check whether the Palestinians implemented fully and completely their obligations according to the Roadmap when it comes to Israel’s security.

When it comes to settlement activities, when talking about the Roadmap it is agreed that the Roadmap should be implemented by both sides. So, talking about the Israeli obligations, we refer to the settlements and the need to freeze the settlement activities. I don’t want to refer exactly to the sequencing of the Roadmap. This is part of the Israeli obligation and part of the negotiations that we are having right now.

[Translated from Hebrew] The central obligation of the two sides has long been to implement the Roadmap. We have decided to conduct a dialogue with the Palestinians on a permanent settlement, on condition that at the end we go back and implement the Roadmap. Before establishing a Palestinian state, for us it is very important to check that the Palestinians have fully upheld their part according to the Roadmap so we can make sure that Israel’s security needs will be met completely. So, although I am not involved with all the contents and clauses of the Roadmap, as I see it, the principle according to which the path to the Palestinian state passes through relinquishing terror is vital and forms the base of the Roadmap.

When we refer to the Roadmap and speak of the mutual obligation on both sides to comply with the Roadmap, we have to remember that Israel also has obligations according to the Roadmap. Among other obligations, there is a reference to freezing settlements, so this subject is on the agenda between the Palestinians and us, and between the international community and us, in the context of the Roadmap.

As you know, I am very focused on the Palestinian subject. I think that this is a critical subject for peace in the region. Israel has always wanted to live in peace with its neighbors, including Syria. As I have expressed in the past, one of the first questions we need to set on the table, including with Syria, is their need to understand that when Israel talks peace – and Israel wants to talk peace with Syria – this does not just mean bilateral relations but the regional context – contacts with Iran, the arms now being smuggled from Syria to Lebanon. But as you all know, I am almost completely immersed in the Palestinian subject.

Q: Mr. Solana, I would like to ask you what is going to be the role of the European Union in Annapolis and if you are confident that after the conference an agreement could be reached in eight or nine months? And to Minister Livni, what is the status of the current negotiations on this joint document? Is it focusing on core issues or on other issues?

SECRETARY-GENERAL SOLANA: The role of the European Union is to be part of the Annapolis conference and a member of the Quartet. Apart from being a member of the Quartet, so we’ll be there. There will be a very important presence of the European Union and very important activity and contribution to the process – not only to the conference itself but also to the mechanism of follow-up, to monitor it if necessary, etc., etc.

Now, you asked me if it’s feasible to file an agreement at the end of a period of eight months or something like that. I think by the end of the year 2008, it could be doable. It could be feasible. I don’t guarantee that will be done but I think it’s possible.

FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: I think that the success of Annapolis itself is launching negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on all of the outstanding issues. We need to remember and understand that for the last seven years, since 2000, there were no negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel decided to leave the Gaza Strip as a unilateral step. The situation in the Palestinian Authority is complicated since Gaza is being controlled by Hamas, and the legitimate Palestinian government has some problems in delivering some of our security needs. But nevertheless, we believe that part of our policy – the international policy – of distinction between the moderates and the extremists, requires this kind of a dialogue in order to find and reach an understanding on all of the outstanding issues.

I believe that the success of Annapolis is launching a process with the support of the international community and especially the support of the Arab world in these negotiations. And I would like to take this opportunity to call upon the Arab world and to say that the Palestinians need their support. It’s not for the sake of Israel, but for the sake of the peace process. Support does not mean to dictate the outcome of the negotiations or to put obstacles before Annapolis, but just to join and support the bilateral process, which is the only process.

During these meetings with the Palestinians, we don’t want to prejudice the day after by putting some obstacles, when it comes to the core issues, before the process. So, in terms of carriage and horses, I believe that the idea is to bridge the gaps the day after, and this is part of our mutual interests, the Israeli and the Palestinian ones.

So Israel’s policy is not stagnation, or we are not going to "win" sometime. I mean, according to the Roadmap, we could have waited until the full implementation of the first phase of the Roadmap before launching negotiations with the Palestinians. But we decided to take other steps, because we believe that negotiations are important, the need to find the way to end the conflict is important and time works against those who believe in a two-state solution – I mean the moderates in the region. And I hope that the Palestinians in the Arab world also understand that it is less about the paper or the statement before, but more about the importance of the day after.

Q: To Mr. Solana, you are due to brief the five members of the Security Council in Germany before the end of the month on what you assess on Iran’s nuclear program. On the contacts you have had so far with the Iranians, are you satisfied with the degree of cooperation you are getting from Tehran and will you be recommending tougher sanctions to the UN? And to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, how would you assess the talks that your team is leading with Abu Ala? How close are we to finalizing a joint statement? Are you confident it can be clinched before the Annapolis Conference and is there not maybe a need at this late stage for bridging proposals from the Americans?

SECRETARY-GENERAL SOLANA: Let me answer your question as I can today. I will have another meeting with the Iranians before the end of the month, before the last week of this month. I still cannot tell you the exact date but we are trying to find a date in our complicated calendars and agendas. You understand I’m not going to answer the part of the first part of your question because I can’t and because I will have another meeting, and I think they should have all the facts and refer to the members of the Security Council.

FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: I hope, for a start, to answer yes. There’s a need for broader, more effective sanctions on Iran by the international community in the Security Council – and not only by the Security Council and other members of the international community, but I hope that the private sector in Europe and elsewhere also understand that it’s about the future of the world and not only an Israeli problem. It’s not only about profits but more about the need to meet this dangerous cause coming from Iran and the need to address this challenge by the international community as such.

About your question: As I said before, I think that the most important thing is the day after. We need to agree, and it basically was agreed, that the success of Annapolis is in launching negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on all of the outstanding issues. This is success in itself, and these are the most important and serious negotiations that we have, while in the last seven years we had none.

So, according to this understanding, I believe that we can reach an understanding. If we try to reach [agreement on] the most sensitive issues before the day of Annapolis – maybe something like you suggested could happen. I mean, things clashing or the inability to bridge some gaps in a week, with reference to the most sensitive issues.

I believe that since we are going to launch a real process of negotiations on all of the outstanding issues, the best thing to do is relate to the day after in terms of a process and then to launch a master process in Annapolis, to be supported, I hope, by the international community and the Arab world. Then I hope we can bridge the gaps when it comes to the most sensitive issues and the core issues. But I believe that it is best to do it the day after and not to try to reach an understanding in a few days about an open conflict and on the most sensitive issues. I think that the most important thing is the process and the day after, so I hope that we are going to reach a joint statement, yes, but I think that the statement is less important. The most important thing is Annapolis and the day after, and basically the statement will refer to Annapolis and the day after.