Rudd talks with Liberman

December 16, 2010 Agencies
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Before he left Israel, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd joined Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman in a press conference to discuss the Australia-Israel relationship and non-nuclear proliferation….J-Wire publishes the text.

FM Kevin Rudd rt meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Pic: Mati Milstein

MR RUDD: It’s good to be here at the Foreign Ministry of Israel once again.  I’ve been here many times in the past. It’s good in particular to be here with our good friends in Israel.  The Australia-Israel relationship goes back to day one. It goes back to the foundation of the modern state of Israel.  And we have been constant and strong supporters of Israel for the subsequent sixty and more years.  In fact, on the sixtieth anniversary of the establishment of the modern state of Israel, the Australian parliament adopted a resolution celebrating the establishment of the modern state and the achievements over those six decades.

Today the Minister and I have exchanged views on our various interests across the world and across this region in particular; the particular challenges represented by threats to Israel’s security; represented by Iran; represented by what is now occurring in Syria and in Lebanon by terrorist organisations including Hezbollah and Hamas.

We also discussed the current status of the peace process and the actions which still need to be embraced there if we are to achieve a peace which guarantees the security of the future of the State of Israel, as well as providing a stable and secure homeland for the Palestinian people.

I’ve reiterated to the Minister that he is always a welcome guest in our country.  I look forward to seeing him down in Australia soon.  I look forward to him finding the time and the opportunity to do so.  And I have said to Foreign Minister Liberman that we would ensure that his time in Australia was indeed time well spent. Thank you very much.

MR LIBERMAN: Thank you very much Your Excellency.

First of all I would like to express my appreciation for your condolences – I think that you were in Bahrain – for your call regarding the last fire and the assistance that you offered.

We really appreciate your personal stance and of course Australia is our great, close friend from the beginning – from 1948 – of the State of Israel.  And we enjoy very, very good and very stable bilateral relations.

We discussed, as the Foreign Minister mentioned, all the issues regarding the Middle East and across the world; exchanged views.  I expressed also our concern regarding the situation in Syria and Lebanon.  We witnessed in the last few months the smuggling of explosives and weapons from Syria to Hezbollah.  We witnessed more and more tension; real blackmail in Lebanon from Syria and Hezbollah regarding the Hariri investigation.

And of course we think that the [inaudible] situation in the Gaza Strip must be improved.  And first of all the international community must take responsibility for the Philadelphi Corridor, for the Rafah crossing, to prevent and to stop the smuggling of missiles, of weapons, of explosives from Sinai into the Gaza Strip.  I know that in the last days it was the issue.  We saw an attempt to place the pressure on Israel to limit our restrictions, to enable unhindered flow of goods and people into the Gaza Strip, but I think it’s only the symptoms.  The root of the problem is the smuggling of weapons.  If the international community will stop the smuggling, we don’t have any reason for any restrictions.  And I hope that the international community will take responsibility and we will see more and more efforts to stop this smuggling of arms and explosives. Thank you.

SHMULIK TAL (ISRAEL RADIO): My first question please to Minister Rudd.  You’ve been quoted in Egypt as saying that it is necessary to dispatch national supervisors to the Israeli nuclear installation in Dimona.  First question is, do you still think it is necessary? What do you think about the general issue of the nuclear capabilities of Israel?

MR RUDD: Well firstly the Australian government has long been committed to the cause of nuclear non-proliferation.  That has been the case since the initiation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty back in the 1960s.  Back in the 1960s Australia and various other states around the world also confronted the possibility of acquiring a nuclear weapons status.  We chose not to.  And the reason we chose not to was because we were concerned about the impact of proliferation across the world.

Secondly, within this wider region we are deeply concerned about Iran, and Iran’s nuclear weapons program.  It states that it is requiring nuclear energy for civilian purposes and civilian purposes alone, yet it finds itself in defiance of the existing provisions under the NPT and the IAEA safeguards regime which operates within it.  And therefore Iran has obtained from us and from other countries around the world universal condemnation; secondly sanctions; and thirdly in the case of Australia, autonomous sanctions over and above those which are required by the UN Security Council.  And Iran’s nuclear weapons program and nuclear program in general represents a fundamental threat to security across the wider region.

Thirdly, on the question of other regional states including Israel, the position of the Australian government has long been, long, long been, reiterated by governments of both political persuasions in Australia that all states including Israel should become accessories to the NPT and its associated obligations.

We recognise, as I said this morning in Ramallah, Israel’s unique security circumstances; we recognise that movement in that direction will be also shaped by the developing security circumstances across the wider region.  But in terms of our fundamental position on the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty as it applies to this region, we have long said, as have governments of both political persuasions, that all states should be in, including the State of Israel.

BEN KNIGHT (ABC): Minister Liberman, Minister Rudd has said that Israel should join the NPT and has gone further and said that facilities like Dimona should be opened to IAEA inspectors. I’m interested in what your reaction was when you heard that.

MR LIBERMAN: You know my approach is that the question is not the NPT, but whether you have a responsible country, a responsible government or not.

A country like Japan for example, or Australia or Germany: for them you know, nuclear weapons are only a question of decision. For Japan it will take three weeks maybe five weeks, but not more than five weeks; in five weeks they can produce any nuclear weapons. But we don’t worry about Japan because it’s a really responsible government; responsible country.

Then you know we have of course Iran. They join to the NPT, they are part of the NPT and we see them every day cheating, with many attempts to waste time. Of course they are part of the NPT, but the reality is completely different.

And you can take for example a country like India. It’s a completely different situation. In this case, in my approach, first of all we have responsible or not responsible country; whether we will see there one day dirty bombs, or they have leaks – not only Wikileaks – but leaks of the technology of weapons of mass destruction to organisations like Al Qaeda, Jihad etcetera.

And I think that we have a very clear position, and we are really a very responsible country, a responsible government and we prove this many years.

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