President Shimon Peres took part in a memorial ceremony Thursday for the six Israeli Air Force officers and one Romanian officer killed during a joint training exercise in July. The memorial was held in Bucharest's main synagogue.
The fallen soldiers were “extraordinary human beings,” he said.
“Our Air Force has unusual people, who love their people, serve peace and are willing to take risks for it, and sometimes even pay a heavy price,” Peres said. He also paid tribute to fallen Romanian soldier Stefan-Claudiu Dragnea, telling his widow, “You are as precious to us all as any Israeli wife who has lost her loved one.”
Peres was accompanied by Air Force Commander Major-General Ido Nechushtan. Ten IAF officers came as well. The ceremony was attended by senior Romanian officials and members of the Romanian Jewish community.
Peres was invited by Romanian President Traian Basescu, and will meet also with Romanian Members of Parliament. In a news conference in Bucharest Peres praised the ties between Israel and Romania, and pointed out that many Israelis have a special tie to the country because they are of Romanian origin.
He also praised Basescu for taking “a responsible position on Iran,” and for supporting negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Basescu has called to deal with Iran's nuclear program through a negotiated deal, but says his country will stand behind Israel in case of an open conflict.
On Wednesday Peres was in Bulgaria, where he met with President Georgi Parvanov and Prime Minister Boyko Borrisov. He spoke about improving ties between Israel and Bulgaria in the fields of tourism and industry. He also thanked Purvanov for Bulgaria's refusal to deport its Jewish citizens during the Holocaust.