Daily Israel Report

Peres in EU: Still Holding Out Hope for Peace

President Shimon Peres expresses hope the Middle East will draw inspiration from the EU by achieving peace.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 3/7/2013, 12:16 AM

President Shimon Peres talks during a news conference with European Council President
President Shimon Peres talks during a news conference with European Council President
Reuters

President Shimon Peres held out hopes Wednesday of seeing the Middle East draw inspiration from the European Union by one day turning a region long at war into one at peace.

Praising Europe for overcoming 1,000 years of conflict in six short decades as he visited EU headquarters, Peres said, "You have the gift of a united hope even if you have a divided economic situation."

"I hope the time will come when the Middle East will become a peaceful united region like you," he added.

Peres, on an eight-day tour to Brussels, Paris and Strasbourg, said he believed there was "a new chance" of resuming peace talks with the Palestinian Authority now that the elections in both Israel and the United States had taken place.

"I don't think the opportunity to make peace is over," he said. "We weren't born to become a master nation, we weren't born to govern other people."

"We will resume the negotiations. Neither us nor the Palestinians have any other choice," said Peres.

Peres stressed the main obstacle to resuming peace talks was not the quarrel over the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria but was about "terror."

"Take the terror out of Gaza", he said, accusing Hamas of converting the area into a base for shooting missiles into Israel.

He called for both Hamas and Lebanon's Hizbullah terrorist group to be condemned by the international community.

Peres’s visit to Europe comes amid renewed pressure on the EU to add Hizbullah to the list of recognized terror group, after Bulgaria named the terror group as being behind the terrorist attack in Burgas last July, in which five Israelis were killed.

However, diplomats have indicated that it is unlikely that Europe will name Hizbullah a terrorist organization because of its political strength in Lebanon.

Shortly after the Burgas bombing, the EU decided not to list Hizbullah as a terrorist group.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Gujarat Cossack-Marcolis said at the time that "there is no consensus on the issue, because Hizbullah also has an active political arm."

She added that the matter is open for reconsideration if "tangible evidence" that Hizbullah is involved in terrorist activity can be brought.

Last month, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nickolay Mladenov urged the EU to take action against Hizbullah at a meeting of EU foreign ministers.