NATO chief invited to inspect Israel’s northern border

June 22, 2016 by J-Wire Staff
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Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin has invited NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to visit Israel and tour the country’s northern border area.

The leaders have held a working meeting at NATO Headquarters in Brussels.

Presedient Reuven Rivlin and Secretary-General Stoltenberg

Presedient Reuven Rivlin and Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg

During their discussion about the situation on Israel’s northern border, President Rivlin said the tour would allow the Secretary-General allow to determine for himself the sensitive situation in which Hezbollah was rearming with Iranian support.

At the conclusion of their meeting, both the President and Secretary General Stoltenberg delivered statements to the media. President Rivlin thanked the Secretary General for the recent decision taken to allow Israel to open a mission the NATO Headquarters, and stressed that this would help strengthen the cooperation and good relations between Israel and NATO. The President said, “Today in the Middle East, the winds of hatred blow stronger than ever. We know that events in one region affect the rest of the world. Today, the whole free world faces the threat of extremism, of hatred, and of the terrorism and violence this brings. This lack of stability, poses a danger to us all, and even to NATO itself, and makes our close cooperation, not just important, but essential.”

Secretary-General Stoltenberg welcomed the President and said, “Israel was the first Mediterranean Dialogue country to agree a security of information agreement with NATO back in 2001. We are now taking our cooperation a step further, and we have agreed to establish an Israeli mission to NATO headed by Israel’s Ambassador to the EU.

This is a very important step and I look forward to this mission opening in the very near future. This is an important step, but not the only step that we are taking; we have also begun our discussions on the path to enhance our bilateral cooperation. Increasing the level of cooperation between NATO and Israel, as well as with our other Mediterranean Dialogue partners is essential. The violence and instability that has crippled the Middle East and North Africa in recent years is a threat to the security of all our nations. NATO and Israel have a long relationship and we are longstanding partners. I very much look forward to visiting Israel, and to developing even closer relationship with Israel moving forward.”

President Reuvin Rivlin and President Donald Tusk

President Reuven Rivlin and President Donald Tusk

In Brussels President Rivlin also held talks with President of the European Council Donald Tusk.

During their meeting, President Tusk asked to hear from the President about his regional outlook, and the challenges which Israel currently faced. The two spoke about the importance of restarting the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as about the situation in Syria and Lebanon, and global phenomenon of the Islamic State.

President Rivlin thanked President Tusk for his welcome, and said “You are a true friend of Israel. This is my first visit as the President of the State of Israel to the EU institutions.  I see it as a sign of the great importance of the relations between the State of Israel and the European Union. The European Union is Israel’s largest partner in all areas: trade, science, environment and culture. As a leading force in science and innovation, Israel is proud to share its technology, research and development with Europe.”

 The President went on to reiterate that the cooperation between Israel and the EU was not only out of shared interests, and said, “We share the most basic values of democracy, freedom of speech, liberalism, and human dignity. These values are a strong base to increase cooperation, in more areas.”

The President also spoke of the importance to Israel of the peace process, but that this issue should not hinder cooperation between Israel and the EU. He said, “Promoting peace in the Middle East is a vital interest of Israel. At the same time, I believe that our special bi-lateral relations can grow and develop in an independent way. I remember your personal commitment as Prime Minster to increase Poland’s public awareness of the Holocaust, and of the struggle against antisemitism. The task of fighting antisemitism and educating young and old people is still ahead of us. We must fight the old virus of antisemitism.”

President Tusk responded: “The European Union and Israel are strong partners and we share many values and cooperate closely across many areas. Together we have built the most highly developed relationship that the European Union enjoys in the region. We also discussed how best to protect Israeli and European citizens against terrorists. I think that Brussels is one of the best places to discuss this issue. I expressed again my condolences for the victims of the recent attack in Tel Aviv, and I welcomed Israel’s offer to deepen our cooperation on counter-terrorism. Terrorism can only be defeated if we face it together.”

On the issue of the Israel-Palestinian peace process President Tusk said, “A lasting peace in the region has been made a top priority for the European community, we continue to work with both sides and to coordinate with the partners in the Middle East in order to support the ‘two state solution’. The European Union is ready back up a peace deal with an unprecedented package of cooperation and support to both sides. The European Union will continue to provide assistance to Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to enable them to meet their basic humanitarian and development needs.”

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