Jerusalem, June 5, 2001
FM Peres: It is a special pleasure for me to receive the special envoy of the Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Russia on his visit to us. We have an ongoing relationship through visits, by phone, and may I say that by and large that Russian-Israeli relations are in very good shape. They are positive, they are rich in content, and they don’t suffer from any inhibitions.
Russia has played a very important role in the last attempt to bring an end to violence and terror, and to reopen the road to peace. I think what was achieved over the last few days is a demonstration of what a political act, supported by the international community, can do in the most effective manner – without shooting, without pain, without accusation, but really by taking the positive side. It was a show of strength for diplomacy, which I believe is always better than military acts in order to achieve an important goal.
It is, again, with exquisite pleasure that I welcome you here, sir.
Vdovin: Toda raba, boker tov. I want to thank Mr. Peres for his kind words, especially where Russia is concerned. I think we had a very good set of talks with our Israeli partners recently in Moscow, namely Mr. Peres, and I think President Putin and Foreign Minister Ivanov are in daily contact with their Israeli colleagues, their Palestinian colleagues, their Arab colleagues, and all the international parties involved.
I think that there was a terrible shock in Russia after the recent terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, especially because almost all of the victims were from Russia and other CIS countries. But the most important thing after that attack is the fact that we should destroy the plans of those who want, through such attacks, to destroy the peace process and to destroy the possibility of reaching peace between two peoples, the Israeli people and the Palestinian people.
Russia will continue its efforts hand in hand with the American co-sponsors, with the Europeans, with Egypt and Jordan, with the United Nations, and of course in close cooperation with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, so that finally a solution, a peaceful, a political solution, may be found for the problems which exist in this part of the world.
Q: Do you support the idea of a buffer zone?
Peres: It’s not a buffer zone. The buffer zone was in Lebanon. We are trying to look for a technical way to prevent terrorists from infiltrating Israel. It’s a totally technical problem, and not a political endeavor.
Vdovin: We are still on the brink of a very serious situation, and Russia as co-sponsor will continue its efforts to ask all parties involved to exercise the maximum restraint so that we don’t face terrible consequences of what is happening now.
Concerning any specific ideas, I should say that those ideas are clearly formulated in the Mitchell Committee’s report, and I should say that the Egyptian-Jordanian initiative also has a lot of similarities with this report, while also having some differences. I think that the set of ideas is quite clear on how to solve the current crisis, but the problem is how to implement them, how to find a useful mechanism for the implementation of those ideas, and that is what Russia is going to make efforts to achieve, with its partners here in the region and in the international community.
Q: (regarding settlements)
Vdovin: Well, for the settlements, Mr. Peres has expressed his position, which, as I understood goes in the same sense as the Mitchell Report, and I think that that is quite an essential point, so that is my reply.
Q: Mr. Sharon said Mr. Arafat is a terrorist and is the head of a terrorist organization.
FM Peres: You heard it? You must be a very good listener.
Q: Is this still so and is there any security cooperation with the Palestinians?
FM Peres: I don’t think that the problem is name-calling, because if you call someone a name, someone else will give you a different name, and there will be nothing but a list of new names. I think we have to judge the policies and not the names.
Our position, my position, towards Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian authority is clear: We see them as the party responsible to end terror, to prevent terror, not to use terror, and to arrest terrorists. This is in accordance with the Oslo agreements, which was the basis of our relations. In Oslo we agreed to resolve our differences not by force, but by dialogue, and that is his responsibility, and we call him to fulfill it, as we are obliged to do likewise.
There is constantly contact between the relevant professional people to really try and enhance the ceasefire. The ceasefire is young and thin, and facing many challenges, and it is our interest to make it a little bit older, a little bit thicker, a little bit more stable.
Vdovin: I think that the primary responsibility for the success of the peace process lies with the parties concerned, so we will not intervene in those aspects which concern the two parties. But we should as an international community accompany this process to help the parties come to agreements, to help things not deteriorate more than they are now, and in that sense you can be reassured.
Vdovin: I can simply add that Mr. Peres made a very important trip recently to Moscow, which, as you see, was not only devoted to politics and to saving the peace process but also to cultural ties between Russia and Israel, and that was a very sensitive point to many Russians.