Jerusalem, 7 February 1996


(Communicated by Foreign Ministry Spokesman)

Foreign Minister Ehud Barak met on Wednesday, 07.02.96, with Swedish Foreign Minister Lena Hjelm Wilhelm. Foreign Minister Barak praised U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher’s announcement regarding the resumption of talks with Syria and expressed hope that the Israeli elections if they are brought forward will cause only minimal delays in the momentum of the talks. He said that even though progress in the negotiations has been slow, it is already possible to distinguish a number of issues including normalization and comprehensiveness in which there has been considerable forward movement. Even on the complicated and complex issue of security arrangements, it is possible, today, to hold a genuine dialogue. Israel attributes great importance to this issue. Security arrangements must prevent any possibility of a surprise attack, a general attack, a deterioration from isolated incidents into a general confrontation. Such complex negotiations which are designed to solve a decades-long conflict require time, Barak added.

In response to a question from his guest about the possible role of the European Union in the process, Barak said that when the time comes, the community of industrialized nations will need to become involved in efforts for regional economic development. Foreign Ministry Director-General Uri Savir added that in this context, the United States, Europe, and Japan must not be satisfied with direct aid alone, but must encourage both Israeli-Syrian and regional cooperation.

Foreign Minister Barak expressed regret over the his guest’s decision to visit Orient House, and added that repeated visits by senior European officials there is liable to push Israel into a situation in which it will be obliged to take measures that will in the end lead to results opposite to those which the European Union is seeking to achieve. He further added that activity at Orient House violates the agreement with the Palestinians and is leading to a sharpening of the Jerusalem issue before the talks on the permanent settlement have begun. Our position in these negotiations, Barak said, will be clear: a united Jerusalem under full Israeli sovereignty is and must remain the capital of Israel. Israel expects European countries to show greater sensitivity on problematic issues on the agenda.

Foreign Minister Barak raised the issue of Iran, which he defined as the main threat in the region today. Iran exports fundamentalism, supports terrorism as a political tool, is trying to take over the Persian Gulf, and is working feverishly to obtain a nuclear capability. All of these require the international community to be cautious and take a responsible and long-range approach regarding Iran.

On the Palestinian issue, Barak said that Arafat’s election by a convincing majority and the new legitimacy that he enjoys, require him more than ever to uphold his commitments under the interim agreement regarding the prevention of terrorism and the abrogation of the Palestinian Covenant. Israel views this as a credibility test for Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. It will be difficult to enter negotiations on the permanent settlement which will deal with extremely vital issues

if there is no certainty that written agreements will indeed be fully carried out. Barak said that Arafat must cross the Rubicon and declare that the destruction of Israel is no longer on the Arab agenda.

The Swedish Foreign Minister said that during Arafat’s recent visit to Stockholm, she indeed encouraged him to fulfill his obligations. Sweden also believes that it is difficult to hold negotiations in the shadow of such a Covenant.