(Communicated by the Foreign Minister’s Bureau)

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met today (Monday, 8 May 2006) with the ambassadors of six Asian nations serving in Israel: Japan, China, India, Thailand, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka.

During the meeting, Foreign Minister Livni accepted an invitation to visit several of these countries in the coming year. She expressed the hope that joint economic projects between Israel and Asian countries would advance while including other countries of the Middle East.

Minister Livni reviewed the situation that has arisen following the election of the Hamas government in the Palestinian Authority and stressed the need to maintain a unified international front that negates the legitimacy of Hamas as long as it refuses to accept the minimal conditions set by the international community (recognizing Israel’s right to exist, abandoning terrorism, and upholding the PA’s agreements with Israel). This, she said, should be done while preventing a humanitarian crisis in the PA, an effort in which Israel would cooperate.

Livni pointed out that Israel has acted to advance the peace process, and the fact that it has no partner is regretful. Israel would prefer to reach an agreement, and in its absence it would appeal to the international community to support the consolidation plan, which would mean advancing the vision of a two-state solution. The plan, she said, serves the interest of every Israeli and Palestinian who wants to live in his own country in peace.

The Palestinians could already have celebrated a number of their own Independence Days, had they not made the wrong decisions, Livni said. The international community should examine Israel’s ideas as furthering peace also with regard to the Palestinians.

Regarding the repeated threats by the president of Iran, Livni said that the experience of the Jewish people teaches that even extremist threats can be carried out, and for this reason it is forbidden for the international community to ignore his threats. She appealed to the member countries of the UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors, saying that time is running out against the free world and that decisions must be made soon.

The Asian ambassadors stressed the importance of developing relations between Israel and their countries and expressed willingness to further them. Japanese Ambassador Jun Yokota announced that his country is willing to take an active role in furthering and improving relations between Israel and the Muslim nations of Asia.