(Communicated by the President of Israel Spokesperson’s Office)
President Shimon Peres on Tuesday evening, 24 January 2012, at his Jerusalem residence, held a working meeting with European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton.
At the start of the meeting, President Peres referred to the sanctions which the EU has imposed on Iran and said, "I want to express our appreciation for the last resolutions taken by the EU. I understand you led this process and I hope it will really bear fruit. Everything that can be done early and peacefully is better than later and dangerously."
He added, "We are very much encouraged by this move and I have a very high regard for this achievement but it does not solve the problem. Naturally, because we talk so much about the nuclear side of this issue, we forget that Iran is the most illegitimate center of terror in the world. We (Israel) feel it with Hamas; Iran smuggles and sends them arms and weapons that can endanger Israel. Iran finances Hamas and splits the Palestinian people. The same goes for Hizbullah in Lebanon. Iran’s government is the most corrupt government politically and morally that I can think of. I don’t know if they will submit to the call of Europe and the call of the United States and if they do, will they then do as they say, but it was a courageous move and the right one to take. So while not forgetting the other side, we have to appreciate the step that you took under these very complicated circumstances."
Regarding the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, President Peres said, "Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad are important partners for peace. We must encourage the forces of peace; otherwise we will strengthen the forces of terror. A formula must be found to enable the continuation of the contacts, resume the negotiations and overcome artificial timetables."
EU High Representative Ashton replied, "The significance of yesterday is that the European Union stands together in sending a clear message to the government of Iran that we wish to go back to negations, to invite them to pick up the issues that we left on the table in Istanbul a year ago, to invite them to consider the ideas that we put forward and indeed to invite them to put forward ideas of their own and to move forward away from the path that would lead to the acquisition of nuclear weapons. We have obligations as the international community to put the pressure on to make that happen but as you say, our aim is a peaceful one – it is to try to find a way through this that will see Iran make that choice and as you rightly say also help with the security of the whole region. We will continue to work with our political allies to achieve that. It is my objective and I send that message to the government of Iran everywhere I go – I am ready to resume those negotiations as soon as they are ready to show that they are serious about wishing to do so."