20 March 2014

Joint statements of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Venizelos and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman 


E. VENIZELOS: I welcome the Foreign Minister of Israel, Avigdor Liberman, to the Foreign Ministry in Athens and to Greece. We also met here a few years ago, when he visited Greece for the first time, as Foreign Minister, and he met with me at the Ministry of National Defence.

I congratulated Mr. Liberman on his reappointment to the Foreign Ministry, and we had the opportunity to reaffirm and update everything that was agreed on and signed at the G2G meeting that took place in October, in Jerusalem.

Our two countries are linked by a strategic partnership, to which we attach very great importance. We are also linked by the trilateral cooperation between Greece, Israel and Cyprus, and thus today was a very practical opportunity for us to talk about all the major issues, about the situation in the wider Middle East region, about the pending international problems, and, naturally, about the major issue that concerns us all: the course of the Middle East peace process.

I had the opportunity to brief Mr. Liberman on the Hellenic Presidency’s priorities and the recent visits I carried out to Kiev and Tehran. We also talked about all the pending issues in the wider region.

We focused mainly on energy issues and our common stance against all the phenomena of anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia and pro-Nazi conduct that are unfortunately appearing in a number of countries. Greece has shown the most organized and determined reaction to these issues, with the Golden Dawn issue at the epicenter.

Mr. Liberman and I had the opportunity to refer to the excellent cooperation developing among Greek and Jewish organizations abroad. The cooperation of the two communities in the U.S. is producing very significant results.

We also had the opportunity to talk about our defence cooperation and, naturally, to stress once again how important it is for us to move ahead and implement everything that was agreed on – not just on the intergovernmental level, but also on the operational level – at our last major meeting, this past October, in Jerusalem.

Finally, I had the opportunity to brief Mr. Liberman on the new developments in the Cyprus issue, in combination, naturally, with the course of Greek-Turkish relations, which impact and are impacted by the situation in the Mediterranean.

As you can see, the developments in Cyprus also interest us in the context of the Greek-Cypriot-Israeli trilateral cooperation, which is very important in the energy sector, but in other sectors as well.

Mr. Minister, I welcome you once again, and I ask you to take the floor.

A. LIBERMAN: Thank you very much, your Excellency. First of all, I would like to express my appreciation to your country, to our friendship, our very, very good personal contact that we established in your previous capacity, maybe five years ago, and of course to confirm the great importance that Israel attaches to its relations with Greece.

Since our last cabinet, G2G meeting in Israel, this is my first visit to Athens, to refresh our relations and to continue to give another boost to all our commitments and our desires to give a boost to our bilateral relations.

Our bilateral relations in combination with your current capacity as President of EU, of course, it may be a very good opportunity to discuss the regional problems, our negotiations with the Palestinians and what we have just finished to discuss, and of course some maybe very important policies for both countries, the energy policy and our cooperation with Greece and with Cyprus regarding the energy policy.

We exchanged views on the Iranian issue. It was for me very interesting to hear your impressions since your last visit to Tehran, and I express our big concern regarding the direction of these negotiations between 5+1 Framework with Iran.

And of course, again to underline, you know, how strongly we appreciate your very firm and tough position regarding the last expressions of xenophobia, anti-Semitism and racism, and of course it is very, very important for us, and we appreciate it. Thank you.

JOURNALIST: My question concerns Israel’s intention, expressed by Prime Minister Netanyahu during Mr. Samaras’ previous official visit to Israel, regarding the transporting of natural gas through Cyprus and Greece, rather than Turkey, and whether this offer still stands, or has changed, or is likely to change, given that there are increasing reports of a solution on the Turkish-Israeli Mavi Marmara dispute, and whether, within this framework, a solution might be found. And whether you believe that the Turkish government is a credible partner for Israel, and where Israeli-Turkish relations stand.

A. LIΒERMAN: Thank you. I think that there is some little misunderstanding regarding the export and exploration of this gas field.

First of all, it is a private project, since a private company received the license to explore and to export half of this gas; first of all, it’s their decision. We today have huge international investors, the biggest Australian companies.

They will lead this process and I understand that first of all they will check the possibilities and opportunities in investments and first of all to prepare some business plan. And I think first of all, of course, it really depends on the private investor, because it is a huge investment in this pipeline, the decision to create some LG station or pipeline.

It is really, I think, a very, very expensive process, and we are waiting first of all for this study from those companies, from this group, and we are of course open and we discussed three weeks ago with the Cyprus side, in Israel, on the opportunities to cooperate, but at the end of the day it will be a decision of the private investor.

E. VENIZELOS: I would like to make a comment regarding the question that was asked. Obviously, the role of the private sector, the business criteria, the funding capabilities play a decisive role.

As a member state of the European Union, Greece follows the basic principles of the European energy policy, which is based on the need for security of supply, on the need to diversify sources of hydrocarbons, and on the need to diversify transit routes, whether they are pipelines or corridors that lead to liquefied or compressed natural gas terminals.

So it is obvious that in the planning there is a private, commercial parameter. Moreover, there is always a parameter that is institutional, political, intergovernmental, and from this point of view, as Mr. Liberman and I have already said, we attach very great importance to the trilateral Israeli-Greek-Cypriot cooperation, which is not cooperation aimed against anyone, but cooperation that promotes our common outlook on many issues in the Mediterranean region.

A. LIBERMAN: May I add with your permission some additional remark. As I mentioned, the feasibility study is now only at the beginning. After we will see the results of this feasibility study, of course we will keep in very close contact, consultations and transparency in all these issues with Greece and with Cyprus. And I think that it is our common interest, at the end of the day, to bring some comprehensive approach to this very, very sensitive energy policy, as we see especially today, and of course I think it will be in open discussion with sincerity and transparency.

JOURNALIST: [off microphone]

A. LIBERMAN: First of all, we keep diplomatic relations with Turkey, we keep trade relations. We increased in the last year our trade with Turkey, and this is really good news. And I think that it will take time. We came with an open mind to this issue and today, the ball is in their court.

JOURNALIST: Regarding the question that has to do with the developments in Crimea, do you think that recent developments in Crimea have been harmful for the interests of Israel, given the fact that the EU and U.S. press, especially the EU press, has been stepping up their voice regarding an increase on the sanctions on Israel through issues such as the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem?

A. LIBERMAN: I don’t see any linkage between the Crimea problem and our challenges in the Middle East. Our position is very clear: we will never interfere in the domestic issues of other countries, and we are not involved in this dispute between the EU, the United States and Russia, and will treat our problems and our challenges completely different from the Crimea case.

We will never agree to any linkage, to any ties, to any attempt to take us to this conflict and to create a mixture between two different problems.

Thank you.


Tags: Statements