If products grown or manufactured in settlements are not properly labeled as
such, it could spark moves in some European countries to boycott all Israeli
goods, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told The Jerusalem Post on
“You should take it [the settlement labeling issue] seriously,”
said Linkevicius, whose country will take over the rotating presidency of the
European Union in July.
“I know the mood in some countries is that if you
don’t change the market practice, you could lead to a boycott of all [Israeli]
goods. You should take this into account,” he said.
arrived Sunday for a four-day visit, said the EU fully backed US Secretary of
State John Kerry’s current efforts to get Israel and the Palestinian Authority
back to the negotiating table.
Kerry, who is scheduled to arrive for a
two-day visit on Thursday, has not asked anything in particular from the EU in
moving his initiative forward, the foreign minister said.
Speaking to the
Post just prior to meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Linkevicius denied
reports that Kerry had asked the EU to postpone moving forward on the settlement
labeling issue to provide him with “more space” in efforts to bring Israel and
the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table.
Kerry requested that the EU hold up on this issue, Linkevicius said “it was not
discussed in the EU.” He said the issue may come up at a meeting of EU foreign
ministers this weekend.
“You know the EU position on settlements,” said
“We do not think they are legal, we do not think they are
Linkevicius, whose country is considered among the more
supportive countries of Israel inside the EU, said bluntly that the advancement
of the EU-Israel dialogue depends directly on progress in the Middle East
While there are “positive steps” in the EU-Israel
relationship, such as the recent Open Skies aviation agreement, “that is not
enough,” he said.
Linkevicius said that the situation in Syria was one of
the focuses of his talks here.
The international community’s steps toward
Syria should be “responsible, informed, and based on reliable information, which
is why we are consulting in the region with those who have knowledge and
insight,” he said. “For me it was informative and interesting to discuss those
issues with your officials.”
Linkevicius, a former Lithuanian defense
minister who has also served as his country’s envoy to NATO, said concern about
the situation in Syria is the reason why NATO allies and EU countries want to
see a Turkish-Israeli reconciliation.
“This relationship was
strategically important for your country and the region,” he said, adding that
both Jerusalem and Ankara should “apply more efforts” to bring about a
reconciliation. “All of NATO would like to have a real improvement in your
The foreign minister did not answer directly when asked
whether Turkey had withdrawn its objections to Israeli participation in various
NATO consultations and exercises as a result of Netanyahu’s apology to Turkish
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in March for the Mavi Marmara
Asked what he thought Israel still needed to do regarding
Turkey, he said “be ready for compromises, take into account the whole picture –
which is really more rich and important – not just for your two countries but
for the region itself. Especially when we have a very difficult time in the
The EU is investing a lot of time and energy discussing what it
can, and cannot do in Syria, he said.
“Neighboring countries, especially
potentially like minded countries who we believe have common values, simply
should be on board,” he said. “Otherwise it complicates the overall
Linkevicius’s comments echoed explanations Israeli officials
gave two months ago, explaining US President Barack Obama’s keen interest in
brokering Netanyahu’s apology to Erdogan: that the United States wanted Israel
and Turkey to be in the same room and cooperate when Syria was being
Regarding Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, Linkevicius said
the country has five chemical plants producing “several hundred thousands of
tons” of chemical material that are stored in 25 storage sites.
he thought Russia continued to stand behind Syrian President Bashar Assad’s
regime, Linkevicius – whose country has a historically fraught relationship with
Russia – said, “They are world players. They would like to hold some leverage.
It is always like that, not just now.
They also have national interests,
economic interests. This is clear, but it should not be done at the expense of
The Lithuanian minister, who took over his current post
in December, said that later this year his country will commemorate 70 years
since the liquidation of the Vilna ghetto.
Among the planned events will
be the Fourth World Litvak Congress to bring together Jewish descendents of the
so called “Litvak” lands, which include Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and
Linkevicius said that he was struck during his visit
in Israel, which included meetings with senior officials, politicians, and
journalists, how many of them were “Litvaks.”
Despite cultural and
climatic differences, Linkevicius said he found a “like-mindedness” on many
issues in Israel, which he attributed to the prevalence of so many
“It is really something very amazing,” he said.
have 700 years of common history,” he said. “Before the war [World War II] there
were more than 200,000 Jews living in Lithuania. Unfortunately, almost all of
them were killed, which is a tragedy not only for your nation but also for
Lithuania. Because it was part of our face, part of our culture, heritage and
Linkevicius said that he was “ashamed to say, but it is true”
that there were Lithuanian collaborators who took part in the murder of the
“It was long ago, but nevertheless it is a fact. It should be
studied, looked into, and included in [Lithuanian] educational programs,” he
“My point is to study the past – not forget, not forgive – but at
the same time go from darkness to light. It is time to look ahead – a new
generation is coming, and we have a likeminded approach to many
Linkevicius noted with clear satisfaction that since Lithuania
passed a law in 2011 allowing “Litvaks” and three generations of their
descendants to apply for citizenship, some 4,000 Israelis have been issued with