It is a great pleasure to welcome my colleague, Michel Barnier, to Israel and to our capital, Jerusalem.
Israel and France share close ties in all fields, both at the governmental level and in all walks of life. I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss with my colleague concrete ways in which we can promote and enhance these relations. We see France as an example for all of Europe in her determination not to let differences of opinion on tactical issues in the peace process get in the way of our mutual desire to promote our bilateral cooperation.
Particularly at a time when anti-Semitism continues to threaten, and when anti-Israeli hostility is also apparent in many quarters, it is important that both governments work together. We must build a positive agenda of dialogue and cooperation on all issues, to combat those who breed hate and conflict. Israel welcomes the determined response of the French authorities – under the leadership of President Chirac – to the danger of anti-Semitism, and we call on the French government to continue doing everything in its power to ensure that all expressions of verbal and physical violence against Jews and Israel are stopped.
France and Israel also have many shared concerns and challenges in the international arena, and today we discussed how we can work together with the international community effectively to address them.
At the top of our agenda is the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. Israel welcomes the efforts of France, together with Germany and Britain, to address this matter. Today I reiterated to my colleague Israel’s conviction of the need to intensify the diplomatic pressure on Iran to ensure that this international effort is successful.
Iran is also the world’s No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism. Israel remains convinced that all those involved in terror, including states like Iran and Syria that actively support terrorist groups, must be isolated and held to account for their actions. In this context we welcome the international community’s recognition of the need for Syria to end its occupation of Lebanon and to dismantle the terrorist organizations operating there. We call on all states to demand Syrian compliance with Security Council Resolution 1559.
Regarding the Middle East, I updated the minister on the preparations for the Disengagement Plan, the schedule for implementation, and the current political situation regarding the question of a referendum. I reiterated to my colleague Israel’s commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict and our desire to work with a responsible Palestinian partner to this end. Sadly, no such partner exists at this time.
I called on France and Europe to bring their influence to bear on the Palestinian side to promote political reform and bring an end to terrorism and incitement. These are the conditions set by the international community in the Road Map for a return to the negotiating process. There is no shortcut to this goal.
Israel believes that Europe can make a real contribution to the efforts to promote this agenda. To this end, we believe that it is crucial for Europe to support those on the Palestinian side who are committed to reform and peace. There is no place in a Middle East that both Israel and France wish to see for those who are engaged in terror.
Once again, I wish to welcome Minister Barnier to Jerusalem and to wish him a successful and enjoyable visit.