If Iran fails to take the sanctions seriously in the immediate future – they are supposed to be approved in June – it will open the way to even more serious measures.
[translated from Russian]
Host: Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that an agreement has been reached with China and Russia to tighten sanctions against Iran. So the West has clearly demonstrated its attitude towards the Iranian-Turkish-Brazilian breakthrough. I think, however, that it’s naive to believe that these sanctions will be able to cool down Iran’s nuclear ambitions. What do you think about that?
FM Liberman: First, we should welcome such determination and readiness to extend sanctions and measures. I must say that this hasn’t been easy, even for a country like the US. Both China and Russia have their own opinions on the Iranian dossier, and their consent to new sanctions can therefore be interpreted as a signal to Iran and other countries, which shows their real attitude to the alleged agreement between Brazil, Turkey and Iran, and says that it cannot be trusted. It certainly means that if Iran fails to take these sanctions seriously in the immediate future – they are supposed to be approved in June – it will open the way to even more serious measures. Anyway, I believe that this signal is very important.
Host: And the next question. Let’s get back to the subject at hand. On Friday, May 21st, the Wall Street Journal announced that Abu Mazen was incredibly generous at his last meeting with US special envoy George Mitchell by claiming that the Palestinians are ready to give 3.8% of the West Bank to Israel, which is twice as much as was promised to Olmert. Is it another bluff from Abu Mazen or is there something more to it?
FM Liberman: All these proposals do not deserve any serious discussion or consideration. While the Palestinians are continuing to incite against Israel, trying to annul our membership in the OECD, claiming alleged crimes against humanity during our operation in the Gaza Strip, commemorating terrorism, and naming their streets and squares after terrorists like Yihye Ayash, we do not intend to discuss any territorial issues. This would be totally irresponsible. Today, we have to focus on two main challenges – security and economics. We will be able to talk about final borders, exchange of territories, etc., only after we have made real progress in both those challenges. Today this is no more than another circus for the mass media.
Host: My next question relates directly to your last statement. As far as I know, yesterday you had meetings with ambassadors of European countries to discuss the current situation in the Middle East and primarily the peace process. Do they realize that if the Palestinians do not stop the violence and do not recognize the right of the Jewish State to exist, any agreement with them would not be worth the paper they’re written on?
FM Liberman: I think that the European ambassadors to Israel are aware of this. However, I doubt that their bosses in their respective countries are. And the mass media, and public opinion, of course. So I presume that there’s a major gap between the understanding of the situation by ambassadors to Israel, and the leaders of their countries. We have to bridge that gap somehow.
Host: And my last next question relates to yesterday’s event. You participated in the opening of the 12th Congress of the Russian Press, and in your speech you quoted from "Five Years among Jews and Diplomats" by the first ambassador of the Russian Federation to Israel, Alexander Bovin. I’ll repeat what you cited: "In the context of our conversation today, the Arabs need us (meaning Russia) as another lever to pressure Israel, no more than that… and we have to adopt the policy of Russia to this rough reality". What do you think, have the official representatives of Russia, who attended the opening ceremony, heard you and Mr. Bovin?
FM Liberman: I’m sure they have. Moreover, we had a long discussion after the ceremony. And I hope that this message – which is Bovin’s, not mine – will reach those in Russia who are in charge of its foreign policy and make drastic decisions.