The foreign ministers reviewed the bilateral relations between Israel and the Russian Federation as well as the situation in the Middle East.
Joint press conference with
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Russian FM Sergei Lavrov: … We are pleased with the talks [between Israel and the Palestinians]. Russia, as a member of the International Quartet of mediators, is interested in creating conditions for turning the current indirect talks between Israel and Palestine into direct talks aimed at solving all the Israeli- Palestinian issues as soon as possible.
At the same time, we think that it is of great importance to seek ways to solve the Gaza problem. With respect to the actions to relieve the siege of the Gaza Strip recently announced by the Israeli government – we consider it as a step in the right direction. We are convinced that it is important to return to the agreement of [November] 2005 as soon as possible.
And naturally, we addressed other aspects of important Middle East issues. Today, I met the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Avigdor Liberman. I believe that we have a mutual understanding that it is important to keep investing efforts in the entire Middle East region.
Regarding the bilateral relations between our countries, we both think that they are on a positive trajectory, and have developed good dynamics. We have regular high level contacts. The President of Israel visited Moscow as a guest of honor on May 9, on the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany. We share an intolerance to the falsification of the history of World War II. We received statements to this effect from both Mr. Peres and Mr. Netanyahu.
The joint Russian-Israeli intergovernmental committee of economic cooperation is very active. Avigdor Liberman is the Israeli co-chairman of this committee. This year, we succeeded in stimulating the activity of the business communities in both countries. A business forum was conducted in March this year. A second similar event is planned for the second half of this year, probably close to the meeting of the joint intergovernmental committee. We encourage this activity, which has a real effect on the expansion of our economic projects, and intensifies our collaboration in these fields.
Of course, human relationships are one of the major components of our mutual relations. Today, we were happy to confirm that the number of Russian tourists planning to visit Israel this year will be more than half a million.
I’m very pleased with the meeting we had today, and I’m grateful to my colleague for our talks and for his hospitality.
Israeli FM Avigdor Liberman: Thank you very much. First of all, we reviewed the bilateral relations between Israel and the Russian Federation. As my colleague already stated, both parties expressed satisfaction with the level of our bilateral relations, including summit meetings between the Presidents of both countries, between the Prime Ministers of both countries, and mutual visits – by myself, and the current visit of the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem. Before the end of this year, we hope to host either the President or the Prime Minister of Russia here in Jerusalem.
In addition, I expressed my gratitude to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for granting approval for the opening of an Israeli consulate in St. Petersburg. we are convinced that this will contribute significantly to the further development of the relations between the two countries.
We also reviewed the activity of the joint intergovernmental committee, and we are going to increase our efforts to reach a series of mutual agreements in the fields of investment protection, collaboration in space, science and education, and other issues on the agenda of both our countries.
We also reviewed the Middle East situation. I updated my colleague with respect to Israel’s new policy regarding the Gaza Strip, our efforts to reach an agreement on the northern border, with the UNIFIL commander in Lebanon and the Lebanese government regarding the village of Ghajar. We discussed the indirect negotiations with the Palestinians, as well as the issue of Iran and the decision taken by the UN Security Council with respect to sanctions against Iran.
We concluded that we will continue updating each other, keep in touch. I hope that we will continue our meetings in a few weeks, at the ministerial meeting of the OSCE that will take place at Kazakhstan in about two and a half weeks.
Q (Israeli Radio): Our first question to Minister Lavrov is, what is your reaction to the spy network allegedly discovered in the US? The second question is to both Ministers: Is Russia more concerned today than before in view of the CIA report that Iran will soon have the nuclear capability to manufacture two nuclear bombs?
FM Lavrov: Regarding the first question, we were not informed about this issue. I hope that it will be explained to us. I can only say that the timing of this announcement was well chosen.
Regarding the second question, you know that during the last years, Iran is enriching uranium up to about 4%. This issue was discussed by the Security Council, as well as by the 5+1 group. According to the assessments of the International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring this process, Iran currently possesses more than 2,000 kilograms of moderately enriched uranium. If we perform simple calculations and assume that military uranium can be produced from this uranium, this amount is sufficient for two nuclear bombs – this has been known for a long time. This is a simple arithmetic calculation. If the CIA has the information that Iran is indeed enriching uranium with the purpose of developing nuclear bombs, this is new information which we would like to investigate thoroughly.
FM Liberman: Israel is convinced that Iran is the biggest threat for the entire Middle East region, and not only in the field of nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the worst result of the Iranian nuclear program will be a global nuclear arms race across the region. Thus the Iranian nuclear program must be stopped regardless of any specific data. We have no doubt that the final goal of the Iranian nuclear program is the production of nuclear weapon – especially now, that they’ve started enriching uranium up to 20%. In general, a country sponsoring terrorism is definitely a threat to stability in the Middle East. It supports terrorist organizations, the Shi’ite terrorist organizations in Iraq, Hizbullah, Hamas, Yemenite Shi’ite rebels, as well as other organizations in other places. Thus, it is clear to us that Iran is a real serious problem of the entire Middle East region.
FM Lavrov: I want to say a few words about the 20% uranium. The Iranians say that they have to enrich uranium up to 20% because they cannot obtain fuel for the experimental reactor at Tehran. In response to the known initiative of Brazil and Turkey, Russia, USA and France suggested to the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency to organize a group of technical experts from our three countries, together with the Iranian experts, in order to solve the problem of fuel supply to the Iranian experimental reactor, assuming that enrichment of uranium up to 20% in Iran will be stopped. I expect a positive response from Iran, in view of the possibility of solving the problem causing the turbulent situation.
Q (Russian press): Mr. Liberman, do you share the optimism of the Middle East Quartet with respect to the idea that the Palestinian state can be established before the year 2012? How do you perceive the activity of the Quartet in general?
And a question to Mr. Lavrov: What are the specific positive developments resulting from your long-standing contacts with the Hamas movement at such a high level?
FM Liberman: Being an optimist, I do not see any chance for the Palestinian state to be established before the year 2012. We can dream, but the reality in this region indicates that we are still far away from the level of understanding and agreement required for the establishment of an independent state until 2012. Regarding the Middle East Quartet: I think that it definitely plays a positive role, mainly in terms of economy and security. This is perhaps an opportunity to thank the Quartet representative, Tony Blair, who is doing a very efficient job in both fields. Simultaneously, we proceed with our indirect negotiations, which will hopefully lead to direct negotiations.
FM Lavrov: I would like to add a few words with respect to the first question. No doubt, we need good will, mutual trust, and we need to move forward. This is clearly stated in the Moscow declaration of the Quartet, issued on March 19, during the Quartet meeting. The Quartet is an effective mechanism. However, we often feel that it is not sufficient. Therefore, the Quartet intends to expand its contacts, on a regular basis, with the Arab League, which was founded with the aim of promoting the peace initiative of the Arab countries. We actively support the efforts aimed at promoting economy and security. However, we are convinced that we must not reduce our efforts on the political track, since lack of political progress will only stimulate the extremism of radical organizations.
Regarding Hamas, we are in contact with this movement in view of the significant proportion of Palestinians who voted for the representatives of Hamas during the elections, which were widely recognized as free and democratic. It must be noted that we are trying to convince Hamas to follow the political path of the PLO, the Arab peace initiative, as repeatedly stated by the Quartet. We already see some progress in Hamas’ positions, and we are going to continue this process. If we limit our work to slogans, we will not achieve any progress. We are convinced that by conducting direct negotiations with the Hamas, we are doing the right thing. We promote the efforts of the Quartet and the entire international community. If we consider the economic problem of Gaza (which we are asked to solve by our Israeli colleagues), it cannot be solved without direct negotiations with Hamas. This is a complicated process, but if we do nothing, we will not achieve any progress.
Q (Israeli press): The first question to Mr. Lavrov is related to the intention of Russia to supply the S-300 anti-missile system to Iran. What is the Russian formal position on this? A question to Mr. Liberman is related to the Russian ties with Hamas: Following Medvedev’s meeting with Khaled Mashal, you strongly condemned this meeting, saying that this is very bad for the stability in the region. Would you say that the Russian ties with Hamas impair the relationships between Russia and Israel?
FM Lavrov: I’ve already answered this question. In Russia, we strictly comply with the resolutions of the UN Security Council. Orders of the President of the Russian Federation are the instrument by which these resolutions are implemented. The order will exactly indicate the types of arms compliant with the resolution.
FM Liberman: Regarding the meeting between Medvedev and Khaled Mashal: Clearly, we agree on many issues, and there are issues on which we disagree and adhere to opposite opinions. This is not a secret, we don’t conceal it. What is very important is that we conduct an open and a very sincere dialogue, even when we discuss issues on which we disagree. The attitude towards Hamas is definitely one of the matters on which we disagree.
Q (Russian press): Mr. Lavrov, did you discuss the issue of Israeli construction in East Jerusalem during your meetings? If so – which aspects of it?
FM Lavrov: We addressed all the issues related to the Middle East settlement. I presented the positions supported by the Quartet and the UN Security Council, which are aimed at avoiding any one-sided actions, including the establishment of settlements before decisions with respect to the final status are made. We stressed these positions again, and our colleagues listened to us.