Slovenian Foreign Minister Rupel on visit to Israel
The current President of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, rounded off a three-day tour of the Middle East in Israel today. The purpose of the visit was to collect information and evaluate the Middle East peace process, which will be one of the issues on the agenda of the informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Slovenia next week. Dr Rupel was accompanied on the tour by the EU Special Representative for the Middle East peace process, Marc Otte.
In the final phase of his visit, the Slovenian Foreign Minister met senior representatives of the Israeli government. He was received first by the President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, then also had talks with the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni. In addition, Dr Rupel met the representative of the Israeli opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert H. Serry. He also exchanged views with the representatives of the EU troika with Tel Aviv and the EU troika with East Jerusalem/Ramallah. Talks focused on the Middle East peace process.
At the end of the visit, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dr Rupel noted that the various discussion partners had agreed that the peace process which had started in Annapolis should proceed at an accelerated pace with a view to reaching an outcome within a period agreed by both sides. Views on the progress of the peace talks are divided. This is the chief impression gained from the discussions that Dr Rupel had with various parties during a visit that started in Egypt, continued in the Palestinian territories and concluded today in Israel. It was, however, possible to see a willingness to bring negotiations to a successful outcome, especially on the part of the two sides involved.
Dr Rupel emphasised the concern felt in the Palestinian territories due, primarily, to the construction of new Israeli settlements, restrictions on movement in the West Bank territories, the worrying humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the closed nature of this territory, where the movement of people via the Rafa crossing point and the movement of goods via the Karni crossing is limited to urgent humanitarian operations.
The Israeli side is concerned about terrorism and attacks, especially from the Gaza Strip, and about the role that Iran is assuming in the region, particularly considering that country’s nuclear armaments program.
Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel underlined that negotiations are the only way to settle the present situation and urged all the parties involved to continue to make progress with the negotiations. He also drew attention to the fact that many of his partners in discussions had identified the huge economic potential of the region, particularly in the area of tourism, which could give the whole region a considerable increase in its standard of living. The European Union is ready and willing to cooperate in development plans; in this phase, however, the Palestinians and the Israelis are the parties that bear the chief responsibility. In any case, Dr Dimitrij Rupel, the current President of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council, emphasised the European Union’s sincere hope that an agreement would be reached that would represent a new step towards increasing security and cooperation throughout the region.