Antonio Guterres in Israel

August 29, 2017 Agencies
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Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres began his official visit to Israel by visiting the grave of the late Ninth President Shimon Peres.

Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

There, he met with Chemi Peres, son of the late President. This is Guterres’ first official visit to Israel since taking office this past January.

Guterres, who was a close friend of the late Ninth President, with whom he met many times, asked to begin his trip to Israel with a visit to the grave of Shimon Peres and brought a special stone with him to lay on the grave on Mount Hertzl. “Shimon Peres was a close friend, one of the most important leaders in the world, and I had the honor of getting to know him personally. We spent many hours together, and I recall one meeting in particular – when we met with Nelson Mandela in Lisbon. For me it was a meeting with two great figures, Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, who were active all their lives in promoting peace in the world.”

Chemi Peres, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Peres Centre for Peace and Innovation, greeted Guterres and said: “I am sorry that my father is not here to welcome you on your first official visit to Israel since you assumed the post of Secretary General of the United Nations. He saw you as a close friend. My father felt that the work of the United Nations was deeply important, and he worked hard to promote the State of Israel as a democratic and peace-loving country. It was very important for him to preserve the country that he loved so much.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Antonio Guterres raising the issue of Iran’s military build-up and entrenchment in Syria, and of Iran’s intentions to build factories for the production of precision-guided missiles in Syria and Lebanon. The Prime Minister told Secretary-General Guterres that Iran and Hezbollah are breaking international law by using civilians as human shields and shooting at civilians.

Prime Minister Netanyahu to Secretary-General Guterres: “Iran and Hezbollah announce in advance that they are planning two war fronts against Israel.It is our right not to allow this noose to tighten around Israel.”

In his conversation with Secretary-General Guterres, Prime Minister Netanyahu also raised the issue of Armon Hanatziv – saying that the UN should respect the building codes and the law in Israel.

Israel and the United Nations will try to arrive at an agreed solution on the issue that will respect the law in Israel.

Netanyahu’s full statement to Antonio Guterres: “You have said that the calling for the destruction of Israel is a modern form of anti-Semitism. You have clearly demonstrated the desire since you have taken office to turn a new page in the relations between Israel and the UN. This is something I want too, and I look forward to working with you towards that joint mission. There is no question that we’ve had a troubled relationship with the UN. I think it has an absurd obsession with Israel, flagrantly discriminatory tactics. You don’t have to be the Israeli prime minister to understand that, and I think people of good faith and common sense understand that. I hope you have an opportunity on this visit to see Israel. It’s a robust democracy. It’s a very advanced country. It’s a country that engages in the pursuit of knowledge and the betterment of our own people, the betterment of humanity.

In fact, last year at the UN, I had the opportunity to visit in an exposition, an exhibition that showed Israel’s contributions to advancement of African countries with amazing technology. There were many African leaders there. This afternoon, we’ll go to another exhibition in which I hope you’ll see, we’ll be there together, you’ll see how Israel, the innovation nation, is helping many nations in addition to Africa. And I think this is exactly the mandate of the UN.

The mandate of the UN was to advance peace and security and international cooperation, and this is something that we seek to do, but I think objectively we can say that the UN has failed when it comes to Israel to live up to this mandate.

The UN is mandated to preserve world heritage, but UNESCO, a world body, time and again makes a mockery of that heritage most absurdly when it denies the connection 3,000 years old of the Jewish people to our eternal capital, Jerusalem.

The UN is mandated to pursue peace, but it allows Palestinian hate speech to flourish in its institution

The UN is mandated to stand up for human rights, but it allows in its various forms the worst human rights violators to take up the cudgel and to accuse Israel of violating human rights. These are well-known to you, and I think are well-known to many people around the world. But I think the most important and I think the most pressing problem that we face regards Hezbollah in Syria. The UN was mandated to prevent Hezbollah weapon shipments, but effectively it has not reported, to my knowledge, even one of the tens of thousands of weapon smugglings into Lebanon for Hezbollah, contrary to Resolution 1701.

There is a larger problem, and that problem, Mr. Secretary, is that Iran is busy turning Syria into a base of military entrenchment and it wants to use Syria and Lebanon as warfronts against its declared goal to eradicate Israel. It is also building sites to produce precision-guided missiles towards that end in both Syria and in Lebanon. This is something Israel cannot accept. This is something the UN should not accept. And I intend to speak to you at great length about this, and other tasks that I believe are important for the makings of peace and security in the world.

I think the time has come to restore moral clarity at the UN. I know that this is a tremendous task. I know that the Secretary General does not have power over the members. I know also that the members don’t always reflect their good relations with Israel that are expanding rapidly in the way that they vote in international bodies. Yet I believe that your leadership can make a difference. I believe that merely focusing on these changes that are so obvious, are so sensible, and are so necessary for the advancement of stability and security and peace, and ultimately prosperity, I believe that you can make an important difference.

And it’s in that spirit that I look forward to working together with you on this visit and beyond to advance the noble ideals on which the UN was founded and that the people of the world so justly deserve. So welcome to Jerusalem, Mr. Secretary.”

The Prime Minister Netanyahu and Secretary-General Guterres participated in an innovation event at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

During his visit to Israel, the Secretary General of the UN will also meet with President Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin and will then travel to Ramallah, where he will meet with the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and other senior figures. His official visit will conclude at The Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot, where he is expected to speak.

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