Prior to his arrival in Israel, the Austrian president and his party had planned to visit the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Gaza and meet with PLO Chairman Arafat. Israel expressed misgivings about the proposed visit. In the course of a second conversation with Mr. Peres, the Austrian president announced his decision not to go to Gaza. The conversation focussed on what Austria could do to enhance the peace process and provide aid to the Palestinians. Text of the statement summarizing the meeting follows:
At a lunch hosted yesterday (Tuesday), 15 November 94, for Austrian President Thomas Klestil, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said that, today, Israel sees Austria as a good friend who is taking an active role in the peace process, for which Israel is grateful.
Peres added that good relations between Israel and Austria do not mean that relations with the Palestinians are not good. The opposite is true. We have changed our relations with the Palestinians and hope only to improve them further. It is in our interest that Austria, as well, have good relations with the Palestinians and assist them as much as possible. President Klestil pointed out that it was out of consideration and courtesy - this being his first visit to Israel - that he decided in the end not to visit Gaza.
President Klestil expressed his gratitude for the warm reception he has received in Israel and for the Israeli leadership which included him in the hopes for a better future for the region. He praised Foreign Minister Peres for his courage and determination in leading the peace process in the region and said that he deservedly won the Nobel Prize.
He said "The agreement with the Palestinians was a milestone in the changing relations of the Middle East, and Austria has always been involved in these aspirations and has contributed to the process. We have an obligation to Israel's peaceful and secure existence and are determined to aid and assist in any way that may help it succeed."
Earlier, in a meeting with Austrian Foreign Minister Alois Mock, Foreign Minister Peres called for Austria to concentrate, in the near future, on aid to the Palestinians and, in the long-term, to invest in the overall development of the region. I believe that the Middle East can become an important market for Europe and its products. Your investments in regional development will pay off in the long-term," he said.
He added that there will never be a greater danger than the existence of a billion Muslims living in conditions of poverty and despair and who may, in the future, possess non-conventional weapons.