Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Cooperation Silvan Shalom, hosted on Monday the first International Regional Cooperation Conference in Tel Aviv. The conference was attended by diplomats, Israeli politicians and Palestinian Authority Arab businessmen.
Addressing the conference participants, Shalom said that the conference shows that regional cooperation can continue even when problems exist.
Shalom spoke of the peace treaties Israel has with Jordan and Egypt and said that one must remember the common people in those countries who want peace and not just look at the extremists who are against peace.
“I would like to believe that after the election in Egypt the new government will be committed to the peace treaty that was achieved between our two countries more than 30 years ago,” he said. “I was very happy to find out that all the candidates said very clearly that they are committed to the idea that the peace treaty between our two countries should last forever.”
Shalom said that the moderate regimes in Islamic countries should be supported rather than the extremist regimes led by Iran, including in his definition of moderate regimes also the current leaders of the Palestinian Authority.
“I really believe that the current leadership of the Palestinians would like to achieve peace with Israel,” he said. I talked to Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas –ed.) as well as to Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad and I found them to be really committed to the idea of peace with Israel.”
“Unfortunately, I don’t think that a unilateral move will be helpful to achieve an understanding that will move us toward peace,” added Shalom, referring to the PA’s unilateral statehood bid at the United Nations on September 20.
“We have been trying to resume negotiations for a very long time. We have tried it since we took power. Unfortunately, we haven’t succeeded.”
Shalom also spoke of the work his own ministry has done to promote peace.
“We’ve done everything we can for integration - cancelled roadblocks, and tried to make life easier. We are going to build a business lounge by four different crossings. Israelis and Palestinians can meet there and discuss projects. Both sides are very encouraged by that idea……….We have reopened the Allenby crossing to allow Palestinians to go directly to the Amman airport without an overnight stay in Amman. We have extended opening hours of Tarkumiyah crossing to 13 hours every day which allow for free movement of trucks headed toward Ashdod, Haifa and the Ben Gurion International airport. There is no other alternative to direct negotiations for improving these processes.”
As part of the conference, Shalom awarded Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair a token of appreciation for his tireless work to “open huge blocks and assist in the security situation in the Middle East.”