FM Peres Holds Talks with European Counterparts

(Communicated by the Foreign Minister’s Bureau)
21 October 2002

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met in Luxembourg with the EU Association Council, and attended a luncheon with Foreign Ministers of the EU.

In the wake of many preparatory discussions held between Foreign Minister Peres and his European counterparts, Peres succeeded in persuading the EU heads at the Association Council to make an additional effort to resolve the "rules of origin" problem that has threatened to cause considerable damage to Israel’s exports to Europe. During the meeting, the parties agreed that in the coming months, intensive discussions will be held at a professional level, between the customs authorities of Israel and the EU. Minister Peres stated that although the economic value of the sum under discussion ($7 million) was low, the potential damage to Israel-EU ties would be considerable.

Foreign Minister Peres urged the EU to sign an agreement, at the earliest opportunity, that would provide significant tax exemptions in the agricultural export sector, constituting about 10 percent of Israeli exports to the EU. Minister Peres also urged the EU heads to swiftly implement the Sixth Agreement on Research and Development Cooperation with Israel. In the context of the fifth Research and Development Program, more than 500 Israeli projects have been implemented, with a value of over 150 million Euros.

With regard to Iran, Foreign Minister Peres called on the EU leaders to demand that Iranian authorities immediately remove the hundred or more Revolutionary Guards from Lebanese soil, and that it put an end to its assistance to the Hizbullah. The EU heads stated that they would bring this demand to the attention of the Iranians during their discussions with Iran on a new trade agreement.

Foreign Minister Peres informed the EU Foreign Ministers that Israel has accepted all the details of the plan outlined by President Bush, including the solution of two states for two peoples coexisting in peace and security, within recognized borders. Mr. Peres also stated that Israel is working to ease the humanitarian situation in the territories. He noted that the Israeli government is upholding its economic commitments and guidelines, on the basis of which there will be no establishment of new settlements.

Foreign Minister Peres described the violent events of the last few days, with the evacuation of illegal outposts. Peres added that Israel had decided, in principle, to release the funds that it had frozen, on the condition that the funds would not be transferred to terrorists. He defended the Israel Defense Forces, stating that it performs very difficult and dangerous work in impossible conditions, and that its soldiers take considerable personal risks and do their utmost to prevent civilian casualties.

The Foreign Ministers of Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Finland attended the meeting, along with the European Affairs Ministers of Britain, Spain and Greece. EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, and EU Commissioner Chris Patten also attended the meeting.