The foreign ministers discussed the situation in Lebanon and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the need to release the hostages, and the Iranian issue.
Joint press conference by FM Tzipi Livni and Spanish FM Miguel Moratinos following their meeting in Jerusalem
FM Livni: I want to welcome the Miguel Angel Moratinos, the Spanish Foreign Minister, to Israel. This is just a few weeks after Resolution 1701 was adopted by the Security Council. At the beginning, we were somewhat skeptical as to whether the international community would demontrate determination on this issue in comparison to other Security Council resolutions which refer to Lebanon, like 1659. We believe that this time, there is a need for the international community to show determination, in order to change the situation in Lebanon, for the benefit of the Lebanese and the Israelis, and for the region. There is no conflict between Israel and Lebanon. Both Israel and Lebanon need a Lebanese state which can exercises its sovereignty on the entire place.
We appreciate the fact that Spain has also sent soldiers to the international force, even though it was not an Israeli request, because the idea of the international force is not to defend Israel but to help the Lebanese to make the changes which are needed.
Foreign Minister Moratinos and I discussed in our meeting the situation in Lebanon and the situation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We spoke about the hostages, and the need to release the hostages who are being held in Lebanon and by the Hamas in the Palestinian Authority. We also discussed the Iranian issue – a never ending problem in this region – but I hope that we can face a better future.
We are beginning to see developments in Lebanon which I consider positive. We are starting to see a change in the situation on the ground. I think Israel should look at the issue as a process, rather than simply as a set of war experiences, and should try to rise above the pain that Israeli society feels, and examine whether the process is positive. I think the indications are indeed so. We will have to look at the situation over time, but I believe the process is on the right track.
We are also possibly on the verge of changes in the Palestinian Authority. Several months ago, Hamas, a terrorist organization, gained control of the Palestinian Authority. Since then, the international community has formulated requirements that are very clear, and very simple; and I believe that, as I speak, efforts are being made by Abu Mazen to introduce changes in the Palestinian Authority.
There is just one very important thing that the international community must continue to insist on, no matter what Palestinian government is in power: every Palestinian government must comply with the three conditions.
FM Moratinos: Let me first thank you for the warm welcome and as always the traditional hospitality of my Israeli friends. By the way, today is the fifth anniversary of 9/11, and I remember five years ago, that I was here, in Israel, when this was very critical tragedy took place. So I want to pay tribute to what happened in New York, and also to say that the fight against terror is absolutely a commitment of the international community. It is absolutely one of the main objectives of the Spanish government and, of course, of the international community.
In this sense, we have all been behind Israel – the Israeli people, the Israeli society, the Israeli government – to defeat terror, to defend Israel. For that reason, when this crisis started, we immediately said that it was the Hizbullah that caused the crisis. Now we must look for what has to be done in order to stabilize the situation and to secure Israel from any kind of attack.
To this end, I informed the Israeli Foreign Minister of the Spanish commitment to be a very engaged part on the reinforced UNIFIL mission. The Spanish troops will be deployed very soon and they will have a clear mandate to implement fully all the elements and all the aspects of 1701. Here, one of the main challenges will be to guarantee the arms embargo. We will do this with all our determination, efficiency and professionalism.
I want to express my appreciation for the Israeli government in all of what has been a very difficult time. I know that you are making a tremendous effort for the release of your soldiers and I think that you should send a very clear message that these soldiers – both the two captured by the Hizbullah and the one captured by the Hamas – have to be released immediately. We will work to try and help send this message to all parties concerned.
The Israeli government is also very active in reviving the spirit of political understanding and giving a chance for peace. We hope, as Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said, that there will be some movement on the Palestinian side that will help us to really engage in a different manner and that the Lebanese situation will stabilize in order that we can move forward and to give much more hope for the people of the region and of course, for the people of Israel.
So, I want to thank the Israeli government for the productive discussion that I had with the Prime Minister and with the Foreign Minister. I have several other meetings scheduled, and you can be sure that Spain, and the Spanish government, is a friend of Israel, and we will work together and we will try to facilitate a durable and a lasting peace for the region.
Q&A [translated from Hebrew and Spanish]
Q: FM Livni, could you, in a few words, summarize your talks with Mr. Moratinos on this visit, and would you please comment on the decision by the Palestinian Authority to set up a national unity government, even though it has not yet known whether Hamas has annulled its covenant, whether Hamas has accepted the conditions of the Quartet, or whether Hamas has made any promises to Israel, but are nonetheless going ahead with a new government.
FM Livni: Abu Mazen has two options now. Obviously, since the rise of Hamas to power, Hamas, a declared terrorist organization, must, in order to gain legitimacy, adopt the three conditions set by the international community. It is also obvious that Abu Mazen and Fatah are not joining a government that does not adopt these conditions.
The key question is not only who will be in the government, but also, what in Israel we would call, its basic platform. If its platform accepts the basic principles, the three conditions, which are not very complicated – that is, they disassociate themselves from violence and terror, recognize Israel and adopt the previous agreements – then we have before us a change that will enable us to move forward with the Palestinians. If Abu Mazen decides not to take a step of this kind, and instead in effect joins a terrorist government led by the Hamas, I am afraid that there will be problems ahead.
I have said in the past that it is easier to deal with a black and white situation than one with gray areas where it is not clear what we are up against. I think that Abu Mazen and the new government that he is about to establish will have to clarify this, not only to Israel, but to the international community as well.
In my meeting with Foreign Minister Moratinos, we spoke, among others, about the fact that the international community, which imposed these three conditions, has had some degree of success to date. Hamas understands that it has to do something (not enough in the meantime, in my opinion), but Abu Mazen understands that he must continue to enforce the three conditions to gain legitimacy. Hamas understands that it has to do something.
Only one thing is important. Especially now, at this sensitive juncture, the international community has a clear role to play. If Abu Mazen and Hamas see that the international community is dithering, and that the community will, with a nod and a wink, accept something else, and not the real thing, that is what we will all get, and we will remain with the conflict. It is not only an Israeli problem; it is a Palestinian problem. Therefore, precisely when leaders are weak, it is the job of the international community to continue to make the same unequivocal demands in order to give them the strength to introduce the change [needed] in Palestinian society. Therefore, the main question is whether we have a real change here, or rather, the purchase of a cheap entry ticket to the UN.
FM Moratinos: Spain’s position continues to be what it was, namely that it calls for acceptance of the three basic conditions set out by the international community, which are logical conditions.
It should be remembered that Abu Mazen was elected, and his platform was to fight terror, to accept Israel’s [existence] and to accept all signed agreements, and hence he believes that any new government must be based on these conditions, on which Abu Mazen was also elected. If there is indeed a change, this could be good news, but we have to address this with great caution and examine the details; therefore his meetings tomorrow are restricted to the head of the Palestinian Authority, Abu Mazen, and his aides.
Q: Has the Spanish Foreign Minister relayed to you, or requested guarantees from the Israeli government in regard to the Spanish force that is about to be stationed in Lebanon. Second, have you discussed the Arab League initiative about an international conference to be raised at the Security Council in New York? And third: Now that there is progress on the Palestinian issue, has a precise date already been set for a meeting between Abu Mazen and the Prime Minister?
FM Moratinos: With regard to the first question, as you know, the Israeli government received with satisfaction the decision to dispatch the Spanish force. I did not ask for guarantees; there is absolutely no need for this; the friendly ties between our two countries are sound, and what is actually important here is the implementation of Resolution 1701.
FM Livni: I want to add that the international forces are not being sent to the region at Israel’s behest. Israel, for its part, has decided to cooperate with Resolution 1701 and to remove its forces from Lebanon the moment it is possible to hand the keys and responsibilities over to international forces that are coming to help the Lebanese government and the Lebanese army. Naturally, if Israel is not attacked, and if Resolution 1701 is implemented to the full, we can cooperate, and therefore, possibly the question should be directed at the internal entities in Lebanon; do they have an interest in heating up the sector as they did in the past.
With regard to the so-called Arab initiative, the members of the Security Council are currently also discussing the question of what will be raised and how it will be raised. But it should be clear that the last plan agreed upon by Israel, the Palestinians and the international community, and endorsed by the Security Council, was the Roadmap.
The international community, which set out the three conditions, also understands that in order to move the process forward, the very same war on terror, and the very same disassociation from terror, is required. This is not an exclusively Israeli position; this represents a definitive understanding that if these conditions are not met, there won’t be a solution to the conflict that the international community can also support, and therefore, whoever tries to bypass these principles, will find themselves in an unending conflict. I hope that this is not the intention of the initiators of the proposal. Those who really and truly want to move the process forward, understand that Israel wants to move the process forward, that Israel is a partner to the understandings on a common goal, that Israel has taken calculated risks, including the disengagement, in order to move the process forward; and hence what we need to do now is deal with the reasons as to why it is not moving forward, instead of finding ways of skipping stages, which will ultimately take us back to the starting point.
As regards the meeting: as far as Israel is concerned, there is no nothing preventing the holding of such a meeting. However, because Abu Mazen wants to come out of the meeting with something to show for it, and the kidnapped Israeli soldier has still not been released, a date for the meeting has not been set yet. But as far as we are concerned there are no preconditions. We don’t see the meeting as a kind of prize, but as an attempt at dialogue.