President Peres began his state visit to Austria, met with the Secretary-General of OSCE and attended a memorial service at the Judenplatz in Vienna with Austrian President Heinz Fischer.

 President Peres on state visit to Austria


Copyright: GPO/Mark Neiman

(Communicated by the Office of the President)

President Shimon Peres began his state visit to Austria (Sunday, 30 March 2014) with a diplomatic working meeting with Mr. Lamerto Zanier, the Secretary-General of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. President Peres said, "We are in the midst of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and the sides are working around the clock in an effort to reach a breakthrough in the talks, but the process is ongoing. It is difficult to overcome the difficulties and I hope that in the coming days there will be positive developments in the negotiations. Your organization has a central role in preserving stability in the Middle East and bringing economic prosperity to all the people of the region."

Mr. Zanier thanked President Peres and said that OSCE welcomes the talks and any progress in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He added that OSCE sees Israel as an important partner for security cooperation in the Middle East.

 President Peres on state visit to Austria

President Peres and Austrian President Fischer at memorial service in Vienna
Copyright: GPO/Mark Neiman

President Peres and Austrian President Heinz Fischer both spoke at the service in the Judenplatz in Vienna which was attended by members of the Jewish community of Vienna.

President Peres said, "I begin my visit to this country by bowing my head before this memorial. Paying respect to the thousands of Austrian Jews sent to death camps from Vienna. The Judenplatz was at the heart of a vibrant, thriving Jewish community. And with the horrifying tragedy of the Shoah, we lost a culture and heritage like no other. From the 176,000 Jews of Vienna, only 5000 remained after the dark chapter of the Holocaust. The State of Israel is our victory. A fortress of triumph against the dark hand of the Nazis. A home to the memory of our six million brothers and sisters.  A promise to the survivors of the horrors. A hope for the future of the Jewish people. Let this be a warning to us and to posterity. We may not weaken for a single moment our common effort to uproot hatred and strife. To convert sword and war into brotherhood and friendship between peoples. To replace ruin and destruction with redemption and Tikkun Olam, bettering the world."

President Peres ended with the Jewish prayer, the Kaddish, in honor of the victims of the Holocaust.

President Fischer spoke at the ceremony about the way in which Austria dealt with the Holocaust in the years that followed and said, "The Judenplatz thus bears witness to a particularly tragic chapter in Austrian history, and also to the way this history has been dealt with by all too many – namely by forgetting and repressing it for years as well as by late remembrance. We have to acknowledge that the way this country dealt with the time of National Socialism even after the end of the war was over a long period largely dominated by an uneasy silence, a guilty conscience and attempted repression. It is only in the last 25 years that Austria – as a result of a difficult process of awareness-raising – has eventually undergone a fundamental and important change in its historic awareness: From forgetting to remembering. From repressing to admitting and accepting co-responsibility for Nazi crimes. From downplaying antisemitism to clear, unambiguous and consistent condemnation of any form of antisemitism – an absolute and unequivocal condemnation, which I wish to again confirm most strongly here today. Indispensable steps in this process were the search for the truth as well as clear words of regret and apology."

President Fischer continued and said,"It is an expression of the commemoration of the 65,000 Austrian victims of the Shoah and an expression of the responsibility we bear for the deeds of the past. By laying wreaths here at this memorial today in a ceremony with the President of Israel, we jointly commemorate the men and women who were killed during the Holocaust and honour the survivors of this tragedy of mankind. An integral element of our remembrance is the promise that we are willing and determined to learn from history. The suffering and death of the victims to whom we bow and pay tribute to together must not and will not have been in vain – nor will it ever be forgotten."

President Peres met on Monday, March 31, with the Director General of the IAEA Mr. Yukiya Amano.

President Peres said: "The IAEA has a critical role to play today more than ever before. Its task requires precision and impartiality. Its mandate is purely professional rather than political. Though the diplomatic effort is carried out by the P5+1, the actual verification is carried out by the Agency. The implementation of the agreement between the Agency and Iran is progressing at a slow pace. Iran is buying time but not answering the call. This has a negative effect upon the parallel diplomatic track. Iran continues to enrich uranium and maintains its capability to develop nuclear weapons. Iran develops as well long-range missiles which could carry nuclear warheads. Iran does not uphold its commitment to cooperate with the Agency’s investigation and does not provide full transparency. When it comes to building confidence, actions matter, not words."