The suspension of sanctions by Foreign Ministry workers enabled five new
ambassadors to present their credentials to President Shimon Peres on
The credentials ceremonies were originally scheduled for July
15, but because of the strike action, employees in the ministry’s Protocol
Department were unable to meet with the ambassadors to brief them on how the
presentation of credentials is conducted, and the ceremony was
Swedish Ambassador Carl Magnus Nesser had been waiting the
longest to drop the word “designate” from his title. He has been in Israel since
the beginning of April. The other new ambassadors are Dr. Fernando Alzate
Donoso, Colombia; Dave Sharma, Australia; Jesper Vahr, Denmark; and Winnie Anna
Kiap – Papua New Guinea.
Vahr, who arrived in Israel only three days
prior to the ceremony, told Peres, that he and his family had received a very
warm welcome from Israeli officials.
“Your diplomats may sometimes be on
strike, but when they’re not, they’re very busy,” he said.
Kiap, who is
also her country’s ambassador to the UK and resides in London, told The
after the ceremony that it was the first time in her diplomatic
career that the host country had provided a police motorcycle escort for her,
played her country’s national anthem, hoisted her national flag and had a
military honor guard on site.
Peres asked Nesser was what it had been
like for him when he served for two years in Iraq. Nesser asked Peres for advice
on how Swedish companies could do more business in Israel, and he also wanted to
know where Peres thought the peace process might be nine months from
Peres was characteristically optimistic, saying that it may be
different this time because the Arabs are tired of war and terror, and there has
been an Arab peace initiative.
Donoso, who has been in Israel for nearly
three months, enthused not only about the cordiality and hospitality but also
about Israel’s medical services.
He was very pleased that Israel and
Colombia have concluded a free trade agreement, with the signing ceremony due to
take place on September 12.
Sharma – the youngest of the ambassadors and,
at 37, the youngest-ever Australian ambassador – presented his credentials in
somewhat halting Hebrew.
Peres said that Israel had enjoyed the
friendship of a series of Australian prime ministers since the very beginning,
and mentioned that former Australian prime minister John Howard had telephoned
him on his birthday to wish him well.
Peres thanked Sharma for
Australia’s help in getting the European Union to list the military wing of
Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and expressed appreciation for the ongoing
presence in the region of Australian peace-keeping forces.
of the enormous contribution that Australia’s Jews have made to the nation’s
economy and culture as well as in other fields, and noted that Jews had arrived
in Australia with the First Fleet in 1788.
Sharma added that Australia
shares Israel’s concerns about the nuclearization of Iran and noted that
Australia currently heads the UN Sanctions Committee on Iran.
thanked Vahr for the special efforts that Denmark is making to commemorate the
70th anniversary of the rescue of its Jews.
He also said that Denmark had
been a key player in the peace meetings between Israel and the Palestinians, and
was warmly appreciative of the fact that Denmark is funding a project whereby
140 Palestinian doctors are being trained in Israel to treat children who are
suffering from various forms of cancer.
Vahr said that the Danish rescue
operation will be commemorated both in Denmark and Israel.
percent of the Jews were saved, he said, “we have to grieve for and remember the
1 percent who perished.”
Turning the conversation to Syria, Peres said
that this was the best time to bring an end to the chemical dangers that exist
there. Agreements against chemical warfare are related to the production and not
to the storage of chemical weapons, he said.
Chemical weapons should be
taken away from Syria he insisted, “because if they fall into the hands of
terrorists, it will be a catastrophe for the whole world.”
Vahr was in
full agreement with Peres about the dangers posed by Syria’s arsenal of chemical