Lieberman: Upheaval requires change in Mediterranean Union

FM in Italy says time to rethink "politicized" Union meant to promote cooperation among countries in Mediterranean.

March 8, 2011 01:27
2 minute read.
Avigdor Lieberman and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

lieberman and bertone_311. (photo credit: MFA)


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With the Arab world in upheaval, the time has come to rethink the Union for the Mediterranean, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini during a meeting in Rome on Monday.

Lieberman was the target of repeated boycotts by Arab foreign ministers in this body, first and foremost former Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, and two scheduled meetings of the Union’s foreign ministers were canceled in 2009 and 2010 because Lieberman was slated to attend.

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Lieberman told Frattini that the idea behind the organization, established in 2008 by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and co-chaired by Sarkozy and deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, was originally meant to deal with issues such as the environment, combating drugs, immigration and the promotion of financial and scientific projects among countries that share the Mediterranean. But, he said, it quickly turned into a “political body.” It is time to look into alternative frameworks, Lieberman said.

Lieberman is currently in Italy on a four-day visit. A planned meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was canceled when Berlusconi underwent surgery Monday to restore his jaw as a result of an attack in 2009 when a deranged man bashed him in the face with a statuette.

In addition to meeting Frattini, Lieberman also met Monday in the Vatican with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state of the Holy See, and Archbishop Dominique Mambarti, secretary for relations with states, and asked them to thank Pope Benedict XVI for writing in a new book on Jesus that there was no basis to the claim that the Jewish people are responsible for Jesus’s death.

Lieberman termed this a “statement of historical significance,” and one that bears upon the relationship between Jews and Christians as well as on the “processes of reconciliation and peace throughout the world.”

A statement put out by the Foreign Ministry said Lieberman asked his interlocutors to transmit the thanks of “all Israelis and the entire Jewish people to the Pope for his rectification of the historical error for which the Jewish people have suffered for centuries.”

Lieberman thanked Bertone for what he said was his “fair and even-handed approach” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and said that the moral voice of the Vatican was of “crucial importance” in international attempts to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

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