President Peres: Even today we can achieve a comprehensive peace between us and the Palestinians.  A unilateral declaration will only increase the instability in the region."

 President Peres meets with Italian President Napolitano


President Peres  with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano  (Photo: Mark Neuman/GPO)

(Communicated by the Communications Department Office of the President of Israel)

President Peres hosted a reception and working meeting today (Sunday, May 15 2011) with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano who is visiting Israel on an official visit.  At the conclusion of the meeting the two held a joint press conference in the presence of the Italian Foreign Minister and senior advisers to the President.

President Peres opened the press conference by stating that specifically now, with all the changes taking place in the Middle East, it is the time to return to the negotiating table and to continue what was started – to enable the Palestinians to build their own state with a strong emphasis on Israel’s security needs.
"I believe that we can reach a peace agreement.  The gaps between the sides are small and can be closed," said Peres.  He added that a unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinians in the UN is not the right thing to do for either side and will only increase the animosity and instability in the region.  President Peres called on his counterpart to continue to voice his support, loudly and clearly, for direct negotiations between the sides to end the conflict. 
"Europe as a central part of the Quartet, set very clear conditions for the Hamas – namely to renounce terror, honor all signed agreements, and recognize the State of Israel – and these principles should be enforced," said Peres.

Jokingly, President Peres said to his guest: "The relations between Israel and Italy are excellent, and if I can be a little romantic I would say – we love Italy and we love the Italian people."  The President used the opportunity to thank the Italian Foreign Minister , who is accompanying the President on his visit,  for the positions Italy has taken on current and relevant issues.

President Napolitano said in his statement:  "Relations between the two countries are excellent and there is a fundamental basis for a full understanding to guarantee the existence and security of the State of Israel.   Italy’s position is for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians."  He also said that Italy recognizes the progress that has already taken place and expressed hope that in the coming months there will be new possibilities to advance towards these goals.

President Napolitano commented on the uprisings in the Middle East and expressed agreement with President Peres’ view of the situation in North Africa.  Italy is hopeful but does not underestimate the complexity of the current situation.  There are real issues of freedom and social justice and both Italy and the European Union have taken upon themselves a commitment regarding democracy and social progress in the Middle East a long time ago, he said.

When asked about "Nakba Day," President Napolitano said:  "Italy supports Israel’s right to exist and to reside in security in the Middle East.  We recognize the UN decision to establish the State of Israel historically and the Arab countries who signed peace agreements with Israel also recognized this."