"Israel will not allow entry of ships carrying missiles and ordnance that arrive directly from Iran, Syria and Lebanon… I call upon European leaders to pressure Hamas to renounce terrorism and war against Israel."

 President Peres meets with Austrian Chancellor Faymann


Photo: GPO

(Communicated by the President’s Spokesperson)

President Shimon Peres this morning (Thursday), 24 June 2010, held a working meeting with visiting Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann.

In his statement at the start of the meeting, President Peres said that, "I recommend that European leaders return to the doctrine of former Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky and former German Chancellor Willy Brandt, who pressed Israel into accepting the late Yasser Arafat into the Socialist International. I told my European colleagues then that we would be very pleased if Europe could succeed in turning Arafat into a socialist and a democrat. And indeed, as I look back at history, I believe that it was European pressure that changed his positions – he accepted UN Security Council Resolution 242, declared a condemnation of terrorism, recognized Israel and entered into negotiations.

"We have the same story now in Gaza. Today, Europe could turn to Hamas, which controls Gaza, and pressure its leaders into supporting negotiations toward peace, recognizing Israel, and stopping the weapons smuggling and acts of terrorism. Then there would be a different Gaza, open and moderate, a Gaza of peace. I reiterate that we have no interest in Gaza. We have no interest in going back to Gaza. We have no interest in the suffering of the Gazan people. We left Gaza voluntarily and I do not understand the flotillas. In order to change the situation in Gaza, there is no need for flotillas or activists but a change in Hamas’s terrorism policy. Austria is currently a member of the UN Security Council. You are a leader in Europe. Austria could aid in passing on this message."

President Peres referred to the flotillas that are trying to break the naval blockade on Gaza and said that, "Terrorist organizations – Hizbullah, Hamas and the Iranians – have taken over the flotillas and are not interested in peace, they are looking for provocations and conflict."

At the end of his statement, President Peres told Austrian Chancellor Faymann: "I thank you for Austria’s clear position on Iran and for the leadership that you and your government have shown towards Israel. You have come at the right time and since Austria has aided change in the Middle East, my suggestion is that you continue. I am certain that such an effort will be fruitful."

Austrian Chancellor Faymann thanked President Peres for his warm remarks and said that, "I am certain that you have an important role to play in the Middle East and in supporting the peace process. Austria supports the solution of two states for two peoples. We are convinced that the peace process, now based on the proximity talks, must move to direct negotiations. We are convinced the quality of life in Gaza must be improved and in order to do so there is a need for the blockade on Gaza to be lifted. On the other hand, we believe that Israel’s security concerns, especially the prevention of weapons smuggling, are an important condition that cannot be violated. Therefore, this is an important period in which all possibilities of dialogue must be supported. For me, dialogue is always the best path in this region."

Chancellor Faymann also said that, "As a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, we supported the sanctions against Iran since we are concerned over the development of nuclear weapons there. This was a clear statement by the UN and the Security Council. This was a clear statement by Europe and the US. Thank you for the opportunity to hold talks in your country. Austria will do its utmost to advance and support the peace process."

After the statements, the two leaders held a working meeting, during which the President said that, "Most European leaders have not experienced war in the past 60 years and do not know what it is like to live with terrorist attacks against innocents. Israel truly desires peace with its neighbors, especially the Palestinians, but we cannot close our eyes to the dangers. We will never be able to compromise on Israel’s security. Defending our children takes precedence over all media and public opinion and Europe must understand this. The process of delegitimizing Israel is, in recent days, being encouraged by Iran, Al Qaida, Hamas and Hezbollah. Europe must wake up and understand that the danger will, in the end, reach them as well. Lebanon has become a Syrian-Iranian weapons depot. Hezbollah fractured and destroyed Lebanon just like Hamas is destroying the Palestinian people. Hamas has publicly stated that it seeks to destroy Israel and we have concrete and clear information about its acts of terrorism, weapons smuggling and building up of an arsenal of missiles in order to attack Israel. Therefore, Israel cannot countenance the free entry of ships carrying missiles and war materiel directly from Iran, Syria and Lebanon to Gaza."

In response to a question about the possibility of resuming negotiations with Syria, President Peres told Chancellor Faymann that, "They cannot forge a terrorism alliance with Iran on one hand and talk peace with Israel on the other. Assad supports Hezbollah, feeds it with money and rockets and denies everything. He denies that he is building a nuclear reactor and that he is transferring long-range missiles to Hezbollah, and is attempting to deceive the West."

At the end of their meeting, Austrian Chancellor Faymann said that Austria would like to assist in advancing the peace process and that he believes that strengthening Gaza and its economy would prevent the Palestinians living in Gaza from turning to support the extremist organizations and would lead to a significant increase in support for peace negotiations with Israel."