The suspension of sanctions by Foreign Ministry workers enabled five new ambassadors to present their credentials to President Shimon Peres on Thursday.

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 deferred.

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 Jerusalem Post 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 now.

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.

Sharma spoke 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.

Peres 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.

Although 99 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 weapons.

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