FM Liberman: We clarified the misunderstandings that we saw in the press. We really appreciate the tradition of very reliable and friendly relations between the two countries.
After the joint press conference, the ministers signed a bilateral agreement on cooperation in the field of telecommunications, posts, and information and network security, and a memorandum of intent on investment, promotion and cooperation.
Press conference with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Israel, Avigdor Liberman, and Foreign Minister of Argentina, Hector Timerman
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem
Moderator: Welcome to the press conference and to the ceremony of signatures for bilateral agreements between Israel and Argentina. After the agreements are signed, we will hear statements from the two ministers. After the statements, we’ll take questions from the press. We will begin with the statement from the Argentine Foreign Minister, Mr. Hector Timerman. Minister, please, you have the floor.
FM Timerman: First of all, let me express my happiness to be here in Israel once again, this time as the foreign minister of Argentina. We had a very important meeting today with my colleague and partner Mr. Liberman. We talked about the many issues in the relationship between our two countries, which as you know is a strong one that has been constructed over many, many years since the establishment of the State of Israel and which is going through a very good period and a good process. And the only thing we were concerned about is how to make that relationship more productive for our peoples and societies, to increase trade and increase investment in our two countries, and to share our views about the regions in which we each live: the Middle East and Latin America.
FM Liberman: Thank you very much. First of all, I’m really happy to see here in Israel and to host my colleague, the foreign minister from Argentina, and his team. As you mentioned, we discussed our bilateral relations and I’m happy to see that we have seriously increased the trade between our two countries. We discussed the serious issue of direct flights between Buenos Aires and [Israel]. I think that both countries are ready to start with this agreement between their authorities. The second issue, of course: we especially appreciate your efforts for signing the Mercosur Agreement, and I also hope that it will give a serious boost to the bilateral trade between our two countries.
We also discussed the situation in the Middle East and in South America. We clarified the misunderstandings that we saw in the press. And we really appreciate the very close ties between the Jewish community in Argentina and the government of Argentina and, historically, our very good relations, and the tradition of very reliable and friendly relations between the two countries.
Q [Kol Israel]: Minister Timerman, I would like to get, if possible, your official stand, Argentina’s official policy regarding the investigation that has been going on for many years on the terror attacks on the Israeli institutions and the consulate. And would you kindly comment on the report in the Argentina press that Argentina is trying to strike a deal with Iran, according to which Argentina will take over the investigation and improve relations with Iran? What is the Argentina’s official stand, even if you don’t regard the report in the paper?
And to Minister Liberman, what is your comment on that situation on that particular issue?
FM Timerman: I would like to express once again that first the government of Nestor Kirchner, and then of Cristina Kirchner, has a strong commitment to the victims of AMIA and the embassy of Israel in Argentina (the two international terrorist attacks that Argentina suffered). We have done, and we are going to keep doing, everything possible to find the party responsible for those acts and to bring them to justice. In that sense, we are the only country in the world who has brought evidence against several members of the Iranian government, and we presented that evidence to Interpol, and Interpol was satisfied enough to issue red cards and order their arrest.
We don’t talk about international terrorism; we act. And we act against international terrorism within international law and respect for human rights. We don’t seek revenge. We seek justice. And when you seek justice, the only thing you can do is investigate and bring charges. It is not about words; it is about deeds.
We have suffered from international terrorism in Argentina, and we have suffered from state terrorism, and what we have done in the past and today, is never, never forget about the victims. Never. And we have not done that in the case of state terrorism in Argentina. We have not done that in any other case involving international terrorism.
So Argentina’s behavior is not something that can be challenged seriously, because, as I said, we have done more probably than any other country in the world. We don’t need to bomb a country in order to show that we are against international terrorism, because we will never violate international law. That’s one point.
The other issue that you raise about the press investigation – I don’t know if you read the report that you mentioned. No? You should. It’s difficult to answer a question if you don’t. So the next time that you see me, if you’ve read the report in the Argentine press, then ask me the question.
FM Liberman: [Hebrew]: I accept his reply in its entirety and I think it was an extremely clear answer, thank you.
Q [Jana Beris, La Nacion]: Your words regarding the position of Argentina were very clarifying and very unequivocal. I’d like to know if the foreign minister of Israel asked you explicitly the moment you met him whether there is an official Argentine clarification regarding that issue?
FM Timerman: No, he didn’t.
Q [Jana Beris, La Nacion]: Okay. And Minister Liberman, we know that the Argentine president personally and the government of Argentina has very good relations with the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. We know how he’s seen in Israel, because of his attitude and because of his alliance with Iran. Is there anything, you think, you would like Argentina to change regarding that special relationship?
FM Liberman: We spoke specifically about Venezuela, our relations with Venezuela, and the situation with the Jewish community. We appreciate the Argentine foreign minister’s personal contribution to better understanding between the Jewish community in Venezuela and Hugo Chavez. We feel there is some real and serious improvement in the situation, and we appreciate all efforts from the Argentine side in these relations between the Jewish community and the government of Venezuela.
Q [Udi Segal, Israel Ch. 2 TV]: Mr. Timerman, following-up on the question about the report and your answer, did you or did you not offer the Iranians to stop investigations in order to get some economical revenues? This is a simple question; I think there is a simple answer.
And to Mr. Liberman, did you raise the issue of Argentina acknowledging a Palestinian state and the ’67 borders? And did you say what will happen if that passes in the United Nations General Assembly in September?
FM Timerman: It’s not a simple question and it’s not a simple answer. Let me tell you something: when my father was kidnapped and tortured, he was asked for the date that the Israeli army was going to invade Patagonia, and he was tortured for that reason. How can you answer? It was also a simple answer; "Give me the date." How do you give that date? So it’s not a simple answer. According to the Torah, the person who accuses is the one who has to bring the evidence; it’s not the victim, the one being accused, who has to prove his innocence… Did you read the report?
Udi Segal: Yes, I read the translation.
FM Timerman: What did the translation say? That I went to the president of Syria and asked him to call the Iranian president and say that Argentina was willing to forget the investigation in order to improve economic ties, and that the Iranian intelligence services found out and were reporting it. Now, if I am asking the president of Syria to do a favor for Iran, why does the Iranian intelligence service need to be the one who found out? I hope that when I ask the president of a country to call a friend, they will call the friend. They don’t need this kind of intelligence service. That’s first of all.
Second, there is no problem to trade with Iran. Argentina has no embargo against Iran. Iran has no embargo against Argentina. So what am I going to get by forgetting the investigation? What kind of commercial benefit? So you see why I refuse to answer those kinds of questions.
FM Liberman: Regarding our relations with the Palestinians and unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state, I think it will destroy everything that we have up until today. It’s very easy to ruin everything that we have accomplished. It would be very difficult to restore these ruined relations later on. I think this kind of unilateral recognition in the Security Council or General Assembly in the UN would really be a very bad decision, with a lot of damage done to our relations with the Palestinians and to the situation in the region, And it’s not a bilateral issue between us and Argentina, between us and other [specific] countries, but between us and the international community.
As you remember, according to the Oslo Accords, establishing an independent Palestinian state must come only as a result of talks between both sides and not as unilateral recognition by some international institution.
Q [Ynet News]: Foreign Minister Timerman, recently Argentina joined the wave that started in South America and Brazil of recognizing a Palestinian state and the ’67 borders. Don’t you think that this kind of step would discourage the Palestinians from reaching a solution through talks with us and not acting singlehandedly?
And I would also like to ask Foreign Minister Liberman a question about the situation in Syria. Do you think that the international community should intervene in Syria like it did in Libya, and do you have any recommendations for President Assad and how he should act?
FM Liberman: Only one recommendation: to resign immediately.
FM Timerman: We didn’t recognize the state of Palestine within the 1967 [borders], we didn’t join the wave, like some of the press keeps reporting. We said, and we discussed it today with Minister Liberman, that Argentina doesn’t have any strategic interest in the Middle East. We aren’t looking for oil here. We aren’t looking for anything. We aren’t looking to establish a military base in the Middle East. We really believe that it’s important to have peace in the Middle East, but peace has to be agreed by the parties who are involved in the problem, not by people from outside. So we are not part of that situation.
We feel that we have a strong commitment to Israel and to peace at the same time, and to every people who look for self-determination. In that sense, we said that we were recognizing the state of Palestine. We think the 1967 borders, plus every single other agreement reached by the Israelis and the Palestinians regarding the future borders between the two states, are not up to us. I said to my friend Liberman that if tomorrow Israel and Palestine decide that the capital of Israel will be moved to Jericho, and the capital of Palestine will go to Haifa, we will recognize both. It’s not up to us.
Really what we are going to do, and we are trying to do, is to contribute in a very small way to peace in the Middle East, in the same way we are contributing, and we are trying to contribute, to peace in many other parts of the world. We do not have any specific issue with the Middle East. We don’t look for anything here but friendship and peace. Thank you.
FM Liberman: To conclude, Timerman and Liberman had a very positive conversation.
Official: Both ministers will now proceed to sign two documents: One is the agreement on cooperation in the field of telecommunications, posts, and information and network security, and the other is a memorandum of intent on investment, promotion and cooperation.
Both agreements are signed by both foreign ministers.