They discussed the advancement of the Israel-Palestinian peace process and of the Arab peace initiative, as well as the strengthening of relations between Israel and the European Union.

 President Peres meets EU High Comissioner Solana

 

Photo: Emil Salman/JINI

(Communicated by the President’s Spokesperson)

Israel President Shimon Peres held a working meeting this morning with Javier Solana, Secretary-General of the Council of the EU and High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. They discussed the advancement of the Israel-Palestinian peace process and of the Arab peace initiative, as well as the strengthening of relations between Israel and the European Union. Solana arrived in Israel after meeting with the President of Syria, and after his visit to Israel will meet with the President of Egypt and visit Lebanon.

At the beginning of their meeting, President Peres told his guest that both sides have expressed willingness to enter into negotiations and have agreed to the principle of two states for two peoples. What needs to be done now is to examine the possibilities of applying it. Peres added that he sees no reason not to launch two parallel negotiations – one on the permanent agreement, and the other to implement the agreements existing in the field, securing those issues that can be agreed upon at this stage – and they are not insignificant.

The President stressed that this is the time to make peace. There is an opportunity to achieve common goals through pragmatic steps that will also contribute to the political climate in the Middle East. The people of Israel are ready for peace. If the peace should fail, we will not be able to go back to square one. Should the regional peace process break down, nuclear arms will change the strategic map of the Middle East.

Javier Solana told President Peres that his impression of his meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad was that he is interested in resuming negotiations with Israel. Peres replied that "If Assad is interested in peace with Israel, he must enter into direct negotiations without preconditions. We must not be confused and forget that Israel is on the Golan Heights because we were attacked, and Israel has every right to ensure that we will not be attacked again."

President Peres added that "Hizbullah is Syria’s reserve army, which acts on its behalf as a terrorist organization. Assad must decide whether he wants peace or continued conflict. I believe that we must try and make peace with Syria, but there is no need for intermediaries," Peres concluded.

On the issue of Israel, President Peres and High Commissioner Solana discussed the outcome of the IAEA report published last week and its implications for the measures the Western world is trying to advance vis-a-vis Iran. Solana told the President that Iran has not yet responded to the Western states’ proposal submitted prior to the elections in Iran.