Liberman summarizes his African tour.
(Translated from Russian)
Host: Spanish Foreign Minister Moratinos has called off today’s meeting with his Israeli counterpart, FM Avigdor Liberman. Moratinos apologized to Liberman and explained that, because [Venezuelan President] Hugo Chávez is about to visit Madrid, Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero had instructed him to get back to Spain as soon as possible. In the meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman returned from his African tour after visiting Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda. Liberman met with state and government leaders, signed political documents, and attended various ceremonies launching joint projects in the realms of electricity, agriculture, infrastructure, and communications.
Good morning, Mr. Minister. First of all, welcome back home. Before we start talking about your visit and its results, I’d like to ask your opinion about the cancellation of your meeting with the foreign minister of Spain, Miguel Moratinos.
FM Avigdor Liberman: This is normal international practice – urgent events, unexpected meetings. The prime minister of Spain called him back to Madrid, because Mr. Chávez is a very unpredictable man, and Moratinos has had much experience in communicating with him. He was asked to come back, and he called me. I actually talked with him twice this week; he was visiting Africa too. We agreed to meet next week at the UN General Assembly in New York. We will both be there.
Host: Actually, I wouldn’t have asked this question, if you, having recently returned from Latin America, did not know even better than anyone else in Israel that Hugo Chávez and the President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are close friends. So my question is: why the sudden change of heart – meeting with Hugo Chávez instead of with you?
FM Avigdor Liberman: It’s because Spain and Latin America have had close ties for centuries, and Hugo Chávez is the man responsible for making major changes on the political map of South America. I am aware of the interest that Zapatero and Spain are taking in Hugo Chávez, who is definitely a leader of anti-Western, pro-Communist, and Islamic trends. He is the man trying to join all those trends together in South America and gain the support of left-wing extremists, such as the Maoist movement, and Islamic groups including Hezbollah and some Al-Qaeda groups in South America.
Host: And the last question about this: is there any particular connection between Chávez’s visit to Moscow and the suspected visit of our Prime Minister to Moscow, which took place at the same time?
FM Avigdor Liberman: There’s no connection whatsoever. I don’t know where the prime minister has been, but the relations between Moscow and Hugo Chávez are unfortunately getting stronger and stronger. I don’t believe Moscow should be doing this. Today, with the world no longer having two superpowers, they cannot follow the principle of "all of America’s enemies are our friends." I really think that position is wrong. Russian foreign policy, with its strengthening friendship with Hugo Chávez and its close cooperation with Iran, will not open new opportunities for Russia. I think such extremism will eventually boomerang on Russia.
Host: Now let’s talk about your meaningful visit to Africa. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem more than satisfied with its results, and with the strengthening relations between Israel and African countries. How did it go? What is the outcome? And, with your permission, one more question – have you made deals, or least negotiated selling weapons to African states?
FM Avigdor Liberman: We never disclose weapons sales, and certainly not in an interview. Our delegation included the representatives of 20 major corporations in Israel, including from our defense industry. Again, I would like to emphasize the great importance of our presence in Africa. This year alone, Africa has been visited by US President Obama, State Secretary Hillary Clinton, Russian President Medvedev, and Chairman of the People’s Republic of China Hu Jintao. This was his sixth visit to Africa. If they all choose to visit it, then why shouldn’t we? Furthermore, there were over 20 visits made by high-ranked officials from Iran, including its president. I believe that our 40-year absence in that continent certainly affects our international status. At the meeting with the President of Uganda two days ago, I said to him "Unfortunately, we haven’t been to Africa for over 40 years." He corrected me: "You haven’t been to Africa for 46 years. Golda Meir was the last to visit Africa, in 1963."
Host: So, he is more accurate.
FM Avigdor Liberman: He knows everything; he is in charge of everything. We often complain that all the international forums are against us, that they are all biased. But it’s hard to expect a more balanced position, considering that we have boycotted Africa or distanced ourselves from it. We don’t invite them here, we have no cooperation, no contacts with the African nations whatsoever, no exchange of opinions, no investments – then why in the world should we expect a balanced position? African states are now dominating the forum of non-allied nations. This is the largest international forum – the forum of non-allied nations and third world states.
Host: I understand that it is still too early to draw conclusions. But, to what extent could your recent meetings change the attitude towards Israel at these international forums?
FM Avigdor Liberman: I do not expect a revolution after a single visit. But still, we discussed a lot of things, we had a very sincere dialogue, and I’m hoping for a change at the upcoming session in New York. We have to understand that some of these countries, Uganda for example, are in the Security Council, and their position is really important for us. We are hoping for at least a balanced position on Israeli-Palestinian issues, and on the issue of all resolutions, such as might be made on Iran.
Host: By the way, speaking of Uganda, what did you feel about the legendary Entebbe country?
FM Avigdor Liberman: I attended the ceremony that was held at the operation’s site on the day of our departure. The government of Uganda preserved that part of the terminal. You can still see the bullet holes on its exterior walls. There is a memorial plaque with the flag of Israel and a description of all that transpired there. It was an extremely emotional ceremony, and we laid a wreath on behalf of the Israeli government. There were also many other emotional moments, not directly related to policy, such as traveling to Lake Victoria. The Nile starts flowing at the place where Lake Victoria ends, as inscribed on the plaque of the Royal Geographical Society.
Host: Mr. Minister, I’m sure we will talk again about the results of your trip and the agreements you reached in various industries – finance, communications and infrastructure. The last question for today: is Africa beautiful or very beautiful?
FM Avigdor Liberman: It’s extraordinary, different from anything I’ve ever seen before. Each place has a beauty of its own. There’s no absolute beauty; everything is beautiful in its own way. Africa is certainly unique, in terms of its people’s mentality, in terms of nature, and also in terms of business opportunities. We have to transform the two continents, South America and Africa, which we have neglected for decades, into target points for Israeli diplomacy.