Peres: "A unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinians at the United Nations can lead to a stalemate between the parties; the European Union can contribute significantly by helping the parties return to the negotiating table."

 President Peres meets with Belgian PM Leterme


Photo: Mark Naiman / GPO

(Communicated by the Office of the President)

The President of Israel and Prime Minister of Belgium discussed the strengthening of bilateral economic relations including hi-tech trade between the countries, the effect of the Arab Spring on the region, and the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

President Peres held a working meeting this evening with the Prime Minister of Belgium, Mr. Yves Leterme. This is his first visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the first visit of a Belgian Prime Minister since 2005. The President discussed a wide range of issues with his guest including the effects of the Arab Spring on the region, the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians as it relates to September, the strengthening of relations between Israel and the European Union, and the bilateral relations between Israel and Belgium.

The President presented his analysis of the current state of affairs between Israel and the Palestinians and said: "It would be unfortunate to arrive at a unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinians at the U.N. that could lead to a stalemate between the sides especially when a peace agreement can be achieved through direct negotiations. The gaps are not that wide. We have great respect for the Palestinian leadership, Abbas and Fayyad, and I believe that we can make peace. The contribution of the Quartet and the European Union will be significant if they can lead the parties back to the negotiating table and enable them to conduct direct negotiations."

The Belgian Prime Minister expressed his condolences on the terror attack in Eilat and the rocket attacks three weeks ago. The President emphasized that Israel views Europe as a significant entity that can pressure Hamas to abandon the use of terror and rockets and as a result contribute to regional stability.

Prime Minister Leterme is visiting Israel in order to explore cooperation in the fields of trade and technology between the two countries. The economies of Belgium and Israel are similar; both are small, open and have very developed hi-tech industries. There is significant potential for cooperation specifically in the fields of communications technology and advanced medicine. The President told his guest, "I know that today the trade between our countries is $4 billion a year and that Belgium is Israel’s second largest trading partner in Europe as diamonds represent 70% of that. I believe we should promote trade in less ‘shiny’ industries and realize the true potential that exists between our countries."

The Belgian Prime Minister told President Peres that the purpose of his visit is to provide momentum to bilateral relations and to increase the mutual investment between both countries. Belgium is a country experiencing growth that has emerged from the economic crisis well and the Prime Minister is here to learn from Israel’s economic growth experience.