FM Liberman: "The root of the problem [in Gaza] is the smuggling of weapons. If the international community will stop the smugglings, we won’t have any reason for any restrictions."
"Any effort to achieve a comprehensive agreement [with the Palestinians] within one year, which means the "end of conflict" – is in my opinion is unrealistic."
FM Rudd: "We are deeply concerned about Iran and Iran’s nuclear weapons program."
Moderator: Welcome to the press conference here at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem with Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. We will hear two statements, one from each minister, and then we will take two questions: one from the Israeli press and one from the Australian press. We will start with the statements now. Minister Rudd, you have the floor.
FM Rudd: Thank you very much. It’s good to be here at the Foreign Ministry of Israel once again. I’ve been here many times in the past. It’s good in particular to be here with good friends in Israel. The Australia-Israel relationship goes back to day one; it goes back to the foundation of the modern State of Israel. And we have been constant and strong supporters of Israel for the subsequent 60 and more years. In fact, on the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the modern State of Israel, the Australian parliament adopted a resolution celebrating the establishment of the modern state and the achievements over those six decades.
Today the Minister and I have exchanged views on our various interests across the world, and across this region in particular; the particular challenges represented by threats to Israel’s security (represented by Iran, and represented by what is now occurring in Syria and in Lebanon) by terrorist organizations, including Hizbullah and Hamas. We also discussed the current status of the peace process and the actions which still need to be embraced there if we are to achieve a peace which guarantees the security of the future of the State of Israel as well as providing a stable and secure homeland for the Palestinian people.
I’ve reiterated to the Minister that he is always a welcome guest in our country. I look forward to seeing him down in Australia soon; I look forward to him finding the time and the opportunity to do so. And I have said to Prime Minister Liberman that we would ensure that his time in Australia was indeed time well spent. Thank you very much, Minister.
FM Liberman: Thank you very much, Your Excellency. First of all, I would like to express my appreciation for your condolences (I think that you were in Bahrain), for your call regarding the last fire, and the assistance that you offered. We really appreciate your personal stance. And of course Australia has been a very close friend of the State of Israel from the beginning, from 1948, and we have enjoyed very, very good and very stable bilateral relations.
We discussed, as the Foreign Minister mentioned, all the issues regarding the Middle East and across the world, and we exchanged views. I expressed also our concern regarding the situation in Syria and Lebanon. In the last few months we have witnessed the smuggling of explosives and weapons from Syria to Hizbullah. We have witnessed more and more tension, real blackmail in Lebanon from Syria and Hizbullah regarding the Hariri investigation. And of course we think that the same situation in the Gaza Strip must be improved and, first of all, that the international community must take responsibility for the Philadelphia Corridor, for the Rafah Crossing, to prevent and to stop the smuggling of missiles, weapons, and explosives from Sinai into the Gaza Strip.
I know that in the last few days that has been the issue. We saw an attempt to place pressure on Israel to remove the restrictions, to enable the unhindered flow of goods and people into the Gaza Strip, but I think that’s only the symptom. The root of the problem is the smuggling of weapons. If the international community will stop the smugglings, we won’t have any reason for any restrictions. And I hope that the international community will take responsibility and that we will see more and more efforts to stop this smuggling of arms and explosives. Thank you.
Q: My first question, please, to Minister Rudd. You’ve been quoted in Egypt as saying that it is necessary to dispatch international supervisors to the Israeli nuclear installation in Dimona. First question is, do you still think it is necessary? What do you think about the general issue of nuclear capabilities of Israel in general? And what installation in Dimona are you talking about? That’s one question.
Another question, please, to Minister Liberman. If I may – in Hebrew.
[Hebrew] Please speak about the conversion law. In the end, will you be presenting this law, no matter what? Will the law come up tomorrow, irrespective of agreements that there may or may not be with the government, with the prime minister?
And another question, if I may, another point – at the end of the process with the Americans – does it look like we’re back to the same point, to square one? What do you think about that?
FM Rudd: Thank you. Well, firstly, the Australian government has long been committed to the cause of nuclear non-proliferation, and that has been the case since the initiation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty back in the 1960s. Back in the 1960s, Australia and various other states around the world also confronted the possibility of acquiring a nuclear weapon status. We chose not to, and the reason we chose not to is because we were concerned about the impact of proliferation across the world.
Secondly, within this wider region, we are deeply concerned about Iran and Iran’s nuclear weapons program. It states that it is requiring nuclear energy for civilian purposes and civilian purposes alone; yet it finds itself in defiance of the existing provisions under the NPT and the IAEA safeguards regime which operates within it. And therefore Iran has obtained from us and from other countries around the world universal condemnation; secondly, sanctions; and thirdly, in the case of Australia, autonomous sanctions over and above those which are required under the UN Security Council. And Iran’s nuclear weapons program and nuclear program in general represents a fundamental threat to security across the wider region.
Thirdly, on the question of other regional states, including Israel, the position of the Australian government has long, long been reiterated by governments of both political persuasions in Australia now that all states, including, Israel, should become accessories to the NPT and its associated obligations. We recognize, as I said this morning in Ramallah, Israel’s unique security circumstances. We recognize that movement in that direction will be also shaped by the developing security circumstances across the wider region. But in terms of our fundamental position on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as it applies to this region, we have long said, as have governments of both political persuasions, that all states should be in, including the State of Israel.
FM Liberman: [Hebrew] Thank you. With regard to the additional visit by Mitchell and the talks with the Americans, I have not changed my mind. I think that the only possible thing, if we really want to achieve a breakthrough, is to reach a long-term interim arrangement, and I would remind you not only of the situation that existed a year and a half ago between us and the Americans and Palestinians, but also what happened in Annapolis, with Mahmoud Abbas, with Tzipi Livni, and with Ehud Olmert. They made the most generous proposals possible and nothing came of it. I would also remind you of Ehud Barak, as prime minister, at Camp David. There, too, far-reaching proposals were made, but nothing helped. So any effort to achieve a comprehensive agreement within one year, which means the "end of conflict" and a comprehensive settlement – is in my opinion is unrealistic, and will only create a lot of anticipation; and when the anticipation is not fulfilled it will cause disappointment and there will be another deterioration in the situation, into violence as well. So we must return to the track of the long-term interim settlement.
With regard to the second issue you asked about, regarding the conversions – the law will come up tomorrow. There will be no delay. There is no change – we do not agree to introduce any changes in the wording of the law. The law, with its original wording as submitted, will be brought for a vote tomorrow
Q: And will it pass?
FM Liberman: Of course.
Q: Minister Liberman – in English please – Minister Rudd has said that Israel should join the NPT, and has gone further and said that facilities like Dimona should be opened to IAEA inspectors. I’m interested in what your reaction was when you heard that.
FM Liberman: You know, my approach is that the question is not the NPT but, rather, whether you have a responsible country, a responsible government or not. You know, for a country like Japan, for example, or Australia or Germany, for them, you know, nuclear weapons are only a question or issue of decision. For Japan, it will take maybe three weeks, maybe five weeks, but not more than five weeks. In five weeks they can produce nuclear weapons. But we’re not worried about Japan, because it’s really a responsible government and a responsible country.
We have, of course, Iran, which joined the NPT – they’re part of the NPT – yet we see cheating every day and many attempts to waste time. And of course they’re part of the NPT, but the reality is completely different. And you can take, for example, a country like India. It’s a completely different situation. In this case, my approach is, first of all, whether or not you have a responsible country, whether one day we will see dirty bombs or have leaks, not only the WikiLeaks, but leaks of the technology for weapons of mass destruction to organizations like Al-Qaeda and Jihad, etc. And I think that we have a very clear position and we are really a very responsible country and a responsible government, and we have proved this for many, many years. Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you very much.