Foreign Minister Shimon Peres with
President-in-Office of the EU, Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh and EU Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten
Jerusalem, 13 March 2001
FM Shimon Peres: We are coming out with a most agreeable lunch with Ms. Lindh and Mr. Patten, and I think on basic issues we saw eye to eye – that is on how really to advance the peace process and reduce violence, and really benefit from the great experience and important capacity of the European Union, which is so willing to be of help in bringing the parties together and continue the peace process.
I know that we start from a complicated beginning, but as I saw it, a complicated beginning and not a final end. We intend to continue the negotiations, and I think that’s why rather than being engaged in theoretical definitions of how to start the peace process – whether permanent or interim – we have to say simply that we want to return to the peace process. I think that once tranquility will arrive, we can sit down and restart the negotiations, and while seeing the complications I can also see the occasions for the continuation of peace.
I want to express my gratitude and appreciation for this very important visit of the delegation of the European Union, and I think it’s another page in the book of the European-Mediterranean cooperation which shall have a continuation.
Thank you very much.
Ms. Lindh: This region is very close to Europe. Of course, we are then committed to do everything we can, from the European Union, to facilitate and promote the positive developments in the region, and we do think that Europe can make a positive contribution. That’s why we also decided to make this tour here immediately when after the formation of a new government. Our aim is of course both to reduce the violence – we understand very well the fear of insecurity – and to facilitate and promote the peace talks and peace process. We don’t think there is any other way than to continue the peace negotiations and restart the peace negotiations, and our aim, when visiting both Gaza and Israel, has also been to discuss how we best can also improve the economic situation for the Palestinians, because we do think it’s of importance to improve the economic situation. Therefore we have also discussed, for example, the transfer of tax resources and also the closure policy.
But I think that we have had very good discussions, and I think it has been very interesting, and positive. This is what I will bring back to my colleagues when we meet on Monday, and we will continue to see what we can do from the European Union.
Q (to Ms. Lindh): Do you see after having met President Arafat an the Israeli representatives that in the near future the negotiations will be renewed?
Ms. Lindh: I don’t know whether it will be in the near future, but I think there is a strong will of course from both sides to really have peace in the future. Even if it seems difficult and sensitive right now to have a restart on the peace talks, I hope that it will be restarted as soon as possible. We have heard on both sides a clear commitment for the aim of having peace in the future. The problem I think is for the moment to get both sides back to the negotiation table.
Q: Mr. Peres, what have you said to Mrs. Lindh and the EU delegation about what the Israeli government can do to decrease violence and start negotiations. Concretely, what can you do?
Peres: What we can do and we shall do is really to facilitate the situation on the ground in the territories, to reduce as much as we can the closure, the inspection, only limited to the shared needs of security. We are basically interested to revive the economy in the territories. We wouldn’t like the Palestinian population to suffer at all; it’s against our interests, and against our moral position. We are against collective punishment. We are looking for ways and means to improve the freedom of movement of people and goods, and we shall really try to do our very best to make, under very demanding conditions, an opening for a different relation.
Q: But wouldn’t you say that there is a form of collective punishment going on right now?
Peres: Right now it’s too early to judge, because the new government just started. There was the event in Ramallah – as you know this wasn’t part of a policy, it was part of an alarm, because in all other places the closure was lifted, but in Ramallah we had information about an immediate danger that we had to stop immediately. But it is not a policy, and one shouldn’t generalize about it. We don’t intend to put any siege on Palestinian life.
Q (to Ms. Lindh): Can you tell us what you and the European Union are urging on the Palestinians, what you think they should be doing to change the situation, and what you are urging on the Israelis?
Ms. Lindh: When meeting with President Arafat yesterday, we both raised the issue of security, which we do find of course very important and how to reduce the violence, and the importance of reducing violence. We raised as well the issue of the budget for the Palestinian Authority, as we are paying for a big part of the budget from the European Union, we think it’s important that we do have transparency and fight the corruption and that is measures that especially Chris Patten has discussed with Mr. Arafat. Then we while discussing in Israel today we have urged the Israeli government to transfer the tax money withheld from the Palestinians as well as we have also raised the discussion of closure policy as well as well-known European Union positions on, for example, settlements.
Chris Patten: Can I just add to what the Minister has just said. We’ve had in the past many extremely good discussions about the extent to which economic development and social development can relate to and underpin government, and I think that many of the Foreign Minister’s insights on that subject are ones from which we can learn, particularly in Europe, not least as part of the partnership that we have with Mediterranean countries.
We think that all those issues in a way are part of the urgent agenda at the moment in the West Bank and Gaza, and I was interested and encouraged by much of what the Foreign Minister just said. It really does seem to us that if the economy continues to deteriorate in the West Bank and Gaza, if more people lose their job, if more people plunge into poverty, if the Palestinian administration is undermined as a potential center of authority, then it’s going to be more difficult to get back to any political stability, it’s going to be more difficult to deal with security issues, and it’s going to be more difficult to relaunch a process which had travelled a long way before at last it capsized.
Yesterday as the minister said we were pressing President Arafat and his colleagues on specific security issues, on violence, but we also made it clear that in order for us to go on providing substantial assistance for the Palestinian administration, we needed to see a tough, realistic budget, we needed to see greater transparency and a complete commitment to deal with corruption. We wanted to see, for example, the implementation of some of the proposals that have been put forward by various well-wishers in the last few months, and we wish to see other donors contributing as well, with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minster today, as the minister said. We have put our views about the economic impact of security measures and above all we have put our views about the non-payment of revenues, and we’ve argued that we find it difficult to see the relationship between that and legitimate security concerns. We’ve had a very civilized exchanged, even if we haven’t agreed on everything.
But these are points that we’ll be putting later on to President Mubarak and to others as well, and we will resume this discussion I’m sure with our Israeli partners in the future.
Chris Patten: I think that there’s a difference between being satisfied and by replies you get to letter and being satisfied by what happens on the ground, and the European Parliament and other parliamentarians and the media in Europe after all, they’re paying for what we’re doing, expect us to be able to stand up hand on heart in the next few months and say that we’ve done everything we can to ensure transparency and that the Palestinian administration are honoring their agreement with us. I think that’s extremely important for us to be able to go on providing as much assistance as we have in the past, in the future.
Peres: I agree with your description, and I will try to do my very best that things will happen before they will be decided. So we shall try to test the ground and test the water and see how to make it happen because I agree with you that both sides would like to restart the negotiations and I’m sure that the minute that violence will go down the conditions will be come right and ready.
Q: … most effective way of doing this?
Peres: I think meeting with Arafat can be extremely helpful, but again and again I would like these two to happen before it will be declared.
||EU to closely monitor funds to PA, Arafat – J.Post, Mar 14, 2001|