(Communicated by the Foreign Minister's Bureau)
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman met on Monday (22 February 2010) in Brussels with Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin. In reply to FM Martin's query regarding the death of the terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, FM Liberman stated that no report links Israel to the incident. The Foreign Minister added that if alternate information, beyond media reports, would emerge, then Israel would respond. However, as no such further information has been presented, there is no need to relate to the matter.
FM Liberman stated that many false accusations are made against Israel on numerous issues, and there is a general Arab tendency to blame Israel for everything, adding that there are many internal struggles in non-democratic countries and organizations in the Middle East.
Prior to his meeting with FM Martin, FM Liberman met with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos. The two ministers discussed the upgrading of relations between Israel and the European Union. FM Liberman stated that the upgrade should not be linked to the negotiations with the Palestinians.
Earlier this morning, FM Liberman met with Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi, and discussed bilateral issues and economic relations between the two countries, as well as the upgrading of Israel's relationship with the European Union. At the meeting, FM Liberman stated that should Iran acquire nuclear capabilities, the result for the Middle East would be devastating, primarily for Iran's neighbors. Any attempt to appease Ahmadinejad and the violent and cruel Iranian regime would be a terrible mistake. FM Liberman said that we are at a critical point where a Churchillian-type leadership rather than a Chamberlainian-type leadership is required.
FM Liberman also met with the Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic Jan Kohout, and heard his account of his recent visit to Damascus and Lebanon. The two agreed that FM Kohout would visit Israel in May.
FM Liberman also met with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov, and discussed bilateral issues, upgrading the relationship between Israel and the European Union, as well as other issues.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman met in Brussels with Baroness Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. They held a frank and serious discussion of a range of issues, including Iran and the Mideast peace process. Baroness Ashton will visit Israel on March 17 as the guest of Foreign Minister Liberman, when they will continue to discuss the strengthening of relations between Israel and the European Union, and other issues.
FM Liberman also met with the President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek and with EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele, and invited them both to visit Israel this year.
In his meeting with Ashton, Buzek and Fuele, as well as in his meeting with Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos of Spain, which currently holds the Presidency of the EU, Foreign Minister Liberman raised the issue of upgrading relations between Israel and the European Union. The European leaders expressed their support for the continuation of the upgrading process, and Moratinos promised to advance the process during the Spanish EU Presidency. FM Liberman noted that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and shares common values with Europe. It is therefore natural that Israel should join the EU, which would also be in the European interest as Europe would have much to gain.
FM Liberman met this morning (23 February) with Bastiaan Belder, head of the European Parliament delegation for relations with Israel, and with Gabriele Albertini, Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, with whom he spoke of Iran and the resumption of the peace process with the Palestinians. FM Liberman stressed the importance of negotiations with the Palestinians and expressed the hope that the indirect talks that will begin soon will lead to the resumption of direct talks between the parties. However, he noted, should difficulties arise in the talks with the Palestinians, we should consider the alternative of setting up joint Israel-EU think tanks to seek new ways to advance the process by thinking "out of the box".
FM Liberman also met with a group of more than 30 members of the European Friends of Israel (EFI) and other MPs who expressed broad support of Israel.
During his visit in Brussels, FM Liberman met with the foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, Spain, Ireland, Great Britain, Belgium and Slovenia, and spoke with them about strengthening relations and cooperation between Israel and the EU and advancing the Middle East peace process. He also stressed the obligation of the international community to take immediate steps to halt the continued nuclearization of Iran. FM Liberman noted that during the meetings in Brussels he found a greater determination and conviction on the part of his European counterparts regarding the Iranian issue along with the intention to take concrete measures soon. FM Liberman reiterated that from Israel's perspective, all options are on the table regarding Iran.
FM Liberman left Brussels for Kiev, where he will take part in the swearing in of the newly elected president Victor Yankovic and meet with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Piotr Poroshenko.