President Shimon Peres met on Tuesday with European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton.
During the meeting, Peres said he welcomed the oil embargo imposed by the EU on Iran and said Israel appreciated the latest sanctions.
“I want to express our appreciation for the last resolutions taken by the EU,” he said. “I understand you led this process and I hope it will really bear fruits. Everything that can be done early and peacefully is better than later and dangerously.”
Peres told Ashton, however, that the latest move does not solve the Iranian issue and stressed that the Iranian threat is more than about its nuclear program.
“We are very much encouraged by this move and I have a very high regard for this achievement but it does not solve the problem,” he said. “Naturally, because we talk so much about the nuclear side of this issue, we forget that Iran is the most illegitimate center of terror in the world. We (Israel) feel it with Hamas; Iran smuggles and sends them arms and weapons that can endanger Israel. Iran finances Hamas and splits the Palestinian people. The same goes for Hizbullah in Lebanon.”
Peres added, “Iran’s government is the most corrupt government politically and morally that I can think of. I don’t know if they will submit to the call of Europe and the call of the United States and if they do, will they then do as they say, but it was a courageous move and the right one to take. So while not forgetting the other side, we have to appreciate the step that you took under these very complicated circumstances.”
Ashton, who came to the Middle East in an effort to pressure Israel and the Palestinian Authority to formally renew peace talks before the January 26 deadline set by international mediators, told Peres, “The significance of yesterday is that the European Union stands together in sending a clear message to the government of Iran that we wish to go back to negations, to invite them to pick up the issues that we left on the table in Istanbul a year ago, to invite them to consider the ideas that we put forward and indeed to invite them to put forward ideas of their own and to move forward away from the path that would lead to the acquisition of nuclear weapons.”
She added, “We have obligations as the international community to put the pressure on to make that happen but as you say, our aim is a peaceful one – it is to try to find a way through this that will see Iran make that choice and as you rightly say also help with the security of the whole region. We will continue to work with our political allies to achieve that. It is my objective and I send that message to the government of Iran everywhere I go - I am ready to resume those negations as soon as they are ready to show that they are serious about wishing to do so.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also welcomed the EU sanctions, but said that other countries should join the effort as well.
“It is important that other countries around the world will join this action,” Netanyahu said in a special plenary meeting to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day. “I mean China, Japan, India, and South Korea. Only a combination of crippling sanctions and a credible military threat on the table can force Iran to reconsider its nuclear program.”