Portuguese FM Amado met with leaders in the region in Portugal’s capacity as the current Presidency of the European Council.
Joint Press Conference with Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni and Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado
Jerusalem, September 10, 2007
FM Tzipi Livni: I would like to welcome a friend, Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado, to Israel, of course, in his capacity not only as a foreign minister but also the presidency of the EU.
We discussed during our meeting the relations between Israel and the EU, our need and aspiration to upgrade the relations between Israel and the EU. There is an ongoing discussion on this in a reflection group and we hope that within the next few months, we can reach an understanding about the best way to upgrade the relations between Israel and the EU.
Of course, we also discussed the situation in the region since the EU is part of the Quartet, and of course we understand that Israel and the Palestinians are being watched by the international community. There is an ongoing dialogue between Prime Minister Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas. While we are talking, there is a meeting between these two leaders, and we hope that we can reach an understanding and common ground that can be the basis for continuous dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians, since there is an understanding that the new Palestinian government – Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and President Abu Mazen – represents the idea of a two-state solution, which is also Israel’s interest.
There are some extremists in the Palestinian Authority whose vision and ideology are not to pursue or to represent the Palestinian interest but rather an extremist ideology. This is represented in the Palestinian Authority by Hamas, in the region by the state of Iran and, of course, in Lebanon by Hizbullah, which is the long arm of Iran. We also discussed the situation in Lebanon – Resolution 1701. Our needs and expectations from the international community are to demand the release of the abducted Israeli soldiers who are being held by the Hizbullah and one in Gaza, Gilad Shalit, by Hamas.
The release of the two Israeli soldiers being held by Hizbullah is not only Israel’s need, but also a part of Resolution 1701. Of course, this also has humanitarian aspects and is part of our expectations from Europe.
We also exchanged a few words about the bilateral relationship between Israel and Portugal and I think that we shared most of the ideas about what is the best way to create a better future for the region. Since it is a few days before the New Year according to the Jewish calendar, I would like to express our thoughts for a better future and a better year next year. Some of it depends on us, but not everything. Thanks.
Portuguese FM Luis Amado: Thank you, Tzipi. I would just like to add a few comments. First of all, to thank you for the possibility of exchanging some views with you again – we have been doing this frequently now, and we will be continuing our dialogue in the future.
As you know, Portugal currently has the responsibility of the Presidency of the European Council, so it is quite important for us to understand clearly what is happening in the region. This is one of the main priorities on the international agenda of the European Union at this time.
During the next months, we will have to meet again for important meetings. We will have a Quartet meeting in New York, and an AHLC (Ad Hoc Liaison Committee) meeting also in New York. We will have a conference with the Euro-Mediterranean Conference of Foreign Ministers in Lisbon at the beginning of November. I hope Tzipi Livni will also be there, and we will discuss the situation in the region. And then we hope to have this international conference on the Middle East peace process in November, and probably a conference of donors in December.
So during the period of time coinciding with the Portuguese Presidency, we have a lot of very important events, considering the development of the Middle East peace process, and the situation in the region. That is why I decided to come here, mainly in this condition, as the President of the Council of the European Union. Certainly we made a point of the bilateral relations which are very good; even yesterday, my basketball team defeated the Israeli team, which is not so common.
But independently of that, on what concerns mainly the relations of the European Union, we are very much committed to the strengthening of the European Union with Israel and with this region. As you know, we have been quite concentrated on that. We believe that the stabilization of the region is a fundamental element of the strategic interest of the European Union. And that is why the European Union is engaged here, for the first time, not only on the humanitarian and economic areas, but also on the political and strategic dimensions. The presence of such a contingent of European member state forces in the south of Lebanon, between the border of Lebanon and the north of Israel, is also relevant to the appreciation of the new role that the European Union is trying to play in this region.
So I have this responsibility to be here. Tzipi, the Foreign Minister, has already said what we have been discussing: the different perspectives concerning the evolution of the situation. We have expectations for a very successful conference, considering the fact that for the first time we also have a clearly defined line between moderates and radicals in such a complex conflict as the one we face here. And we will certainly try to foster this process, and to create all of the political conditions on our side to have successful results.
Of course, it is a complex, difficult process that started and stopped so many times; it was abruptly interrupted for some time. It is important now that after seven years we have a dialogue again and a very interesting process of dialogue on the bilateral track between the Palestinian moderate camp and Israeli authorities. They are even now, as was mentioned, in an important meeting.
Without unrealistic expectations but with strong commitment and with the hope that we all share in having a peaceful solution to the situation we face here, I hope that during the next months, we can achieve some important movement concerning the critical situation in the region.
This is the responsibility of the European Union also. It is not easy to deal with the reality of the European Union, as you know, with 27 member states at this time; some with different perspectives and sensibilities on some of those issues. But for the first time, the European Union is quite committed to supporting this process; and, for the first time, the EU also supporting the bilateral track . We have a strong commitment with a single voice on this – independently of all the different visits that you will receive from some of our colleagues in the European Union.
You can count on a stronger European Union commitment in support of this process during the next months; this is the message that I will also express to President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad this evening when I meet them in Ramallah – a strong commitment by the European Union in supporting all the measures and all of the steps given by the moderates on both sides to achieve a peaceful, sustainable and reasonable solution for this complex and difficult situation.
Q: Foreign Minister Livni, during the last couple of days, there has been a lot of tension with Syria, after the Israeli air incursion on the night between Wednesday and Thursday. And I was wondering, do you think that this incident is behind us, or is there still a threat of a war between Israel and Syria?
Q: A question to Mrs. Livni: How does the situation in Gaza affect the preparations that are going on now, of trying to write a declaration of principles for the conference in November?
And, for Minister Amado, you spoke about an international contingent, including Portuguese forces, in Lebanon. Is this a possibility or would you support a European contingent in the West Bank in a future agreement also?
Q: President Abbas had requested before today’s talks, that Israel would go through with some kind of a prisoner release and also release some of the road blocks in the West Bank. Do you know if the Prime Minister is any closer to making that kind of an agreement or if he is prepared to offer anything in that respect to Mahmoud Abbas during today’s talks.
FM Tzipi Livni: Referring to the first question, I am sure that you do not really expect me to refer to these reports. And I do not believe that further statements on this issue by either side are helpful.
Now I would like to answer your question about the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, and the situation in the Gaza Strip.
The idea is to promote a dialogue with the pragmatic leaders on the Palestinian side. There is a kind of an opportunity – there is a new Palestinian government, headed by Salam Fayyad and Abu Mazen himself. I believe that these two leaders and their group believe in the idea of a two-state solution, living side by side in peace. And this is also the Israeli aspiration. But of course, the situation in the Gaza Strip is completely different. Gaza is controlled by Hamas, which is a terrorist organization that represents an extreme ideology, and does not represent the aspirations of the Palestinian state or the idea of a two-state solution.
So, the idea is to promote this dialogue with the moderates and to find common ground with the pragmatic leaders, so that the understandings that can be achieved with the moderates will be implemented – where there is a government that can deliver and implement its obligations according to these understandings.
The situation is different in Gaza, in comparison to the West Bank. I hope the Palestinians will understand that those who believe in a two-state solution and those who believe and understand that Israel’s security is not only an Israeli interest, but also their own interest – these are the leaders who can also bring hope to their own people, in terms of day-to-day life, and also in the long term and the future.
Talking about some gestures, of course there is an ongoing dialogue. In the past Israel released money to the Palestinians, after the creation of the new Palestinian government. We released prisoners in the past – this is a part of the ongoing dialogue. I think that we should wait until the end of the meeting between Abu Mazen-Mahmoud Abbas, but, basically, when it comes to the policy of the Israeli government and the Palestinians, we understand the need to help this new government in several areas. We understand the need to ease the lives of the Palestinians, and I believe that this is also in Israel’s interest. But the other side of this equation is Israel’s security, and I hope that you understand that.
[The Portuguese Foreign Minister replied in Portuguese.]