Talks focused on enhancing relations between Israel and Europe and the situation between Israel and the Palestinians.
Statements by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni and EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner after meeting
Jerusalem, 27 February 2007
FM Livni: I would like to welcome the European Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner to Israel. Next week I am going to Europe and the idea here is to enhance the relationship between Israel and Europe the best way we can. So we have discussed part of the ideas and we will continue these discussions next week.
Of course, like always, the situation in the Middle East was part of our discussion. This is now a very sensitive period in time, after the internal agreement between the different Palestinian factions and before the formation of the government. Our expectation is, of course, that any future Palestinian government meet fully and completely the requirements of the international community, including Europe. Basically these were the issues that we discussed.
Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner: Let me also say that, indeed, I had two big issues. One is, of course, our Neighborhood Policy and the possibility of further enhancing our already deep relationship with Israel.
It is two years now that we have first assigned and then adopted the action plan with Israel. I have stated today, at the university, how much we already have been working together, and how deep our relationship is, But we also said, that certainly since there is this principle of differentiation in the neighborhood policy, we will be able to go ahead for a further, deeper and better relationship in the future.
But we are working together with Israel as the only country, for instance, in the 7th Framework of the Research and Development and I think it is very important that you are now an integrated part of this. There is the satellite navigation of Galileo, and there are quite a number of other projects.
We have also tackled the question of energy, environment and transport that could be on our table in the future, because I think Israel is one of the important consumer countries; we have similar challenges to meet and we could work on renewables, on energy security and energy issues.
So this was the first package.
And the second is, we have of course spoken about the Middle East, about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, about the Mecca Agreement, that indeed calmed the situation and avoided a civil war. Now we are looking of course, to the formation of the national unity government. And, as we always said, we now have to see what this national unity government will do. We will have to look at the program as to their actions.
In any case, we have been starting to have some preliminary thoughts and reflections on the way that we could engage gradually and maybe with the government, if it responds to the Quartet principles. On the one hand we have our team, our temporary international mechanism that is there, or the funding that has been a little bit expanded but that will continue. And on the other hand, we have three other – we call them channels, but these are not funding channels. This is not an agency – it is about coordination of activities of the international community that could be on governance, that could be on institution building now, or ready for independent institutions that are not dependent upon the government – for instance, the independent electoral commission or maybe the border agency that depends directly on the president.
And finally, and I think important also, is about the economic development which is, of course, very important to give hope and development to the Palestinian people and the freedom of movement, of access, between people and goods and we have discussed this.
Q: Minister Livni, what is Israel’s position regarding the growing opinions in the EU, in the countries of Europe, if the Palestinian government does not unequivocally meet all of Israel’s demands?
FM Livni: Europe is a partner to the Quartet principles. These principles are very clear and as far as we are concerned, they are not negotiable. Recognition of Israel is not negotiable. The same is true of the need to end the terrorism and certainly also of the recognition and acceptance of the previous accords between Israel and the Palestinians. These are not a kind of menu from which you can choose what you like.
These principles are not an obstacle to peace – they are required for advancing the process. So that is our position. I believe that it must continue and it must be the position of the international community, including Europe. The need to uphold these three principles has been required of every Palestinian government.
We are in the period after a political agreement and before the formation of a Palestinian government. This requirement must be clear- for every Palestinian government.
I would like to note that Israel, together with the international community, even before that internal agreement, has had a policy of differentiating between the moderate elements and the extremist elements; between the president and the government; between Abu Mazen with Fatah, and Hamas – which, to remind you, is a terrorist organization – with the aim of advancing the process with the moderate elements.
To be able to do this, we must continue to put pressure on those extremist elements and on the government, and that is what we expect of the international community, with the understanding that sometimes the need for stability – which I can understand and we certainly do not want to see any wars within the Palestinian Authority – is liable, in this case, to lead to stagnation and not to advancing the process.
Q: Madame Commissioner, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov spoke today about ending the aid boycott. Now the suggestion is perhaps this would happen without waiting for the incoming government to recognize the State of Israel. Do you think that the Quartet is divided over this issue?
Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner: You have seen the Quartet statement in Berlin that has been quite clear for the moment. Of course, we have to see really what a new national unity government would be like, what would be the program, and what would be the actions. I think it is the right stance now to wait for that, and then we will have to take a decision. We should take a decision, in the Quartet, hopefully in one stance.