Despite the difficult situation caused by the abduction of three yeshiva students last week, Israel and the Palestinian Authority must find a way to resume peace negotiations, Romanian Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean said on Sunday.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post after meeting Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, Corlatean said: “There is a need to find a political solution, even in these complicated circumstances, and to relaunch the peace process.”
Asked if Hamas didn’t pose a problem, Corlatean called on the PA, whose foreign minister he was due to meet later in the day, to “assume a clear commitment to the principles of the Quartet and previous agreements.”
Corlatean, who has visited Israel numerous times and is considered a good friend of the Jewish state, said he and Liberman had discussed a government- to-government (G2G) meeting between Israel and Romania scheduled to be held here on Tuesday, as well as bilateral cooperation, international issues and regional developments.
“Of course, I expressed once again our condemnation of the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers and our solidarity with the families and the people of Israel,” he said.
“Our position was very much appreciated. We were among the first EU member states to express this clear position. But despite these bad developments, our position and the position of the EU is that there is no alternative to dialogue and negotiations for reaching a political solution in the Middle East peace process.”
Toward this goal, he said, Romania maintained good contacts with both Israel and the Palestinians, and he stressed the importance of good contacts between the EU and Israel.
“In Romania, we are dedicated to supporting together with our European and American friends chances for the peace process,” he said. “The twostate solution was and still is an option from our point of view.
Of course, there is a need to take Israel’s security needs into consideration, at the same time as there being a need to find a political solution, even in these complicated circumstances.”
Corlatean said that this week’s G2G meeting would celebrate “66 years of uninterrupted, substantial and very friendly relations between Romania and Israel.”
He said 11 bilateral agreements would be signed, from economic cooperation to education, culture, research, labor, sports and health, as well as Israeli cooperation in an ambitious Romanian-based laser program.
“This extreme-light infrastructure project is really something special,” he said. “It is the most important laser project in the world, and is being developed in Romania, close to Bucharest, with the support of the European Commission. We have been discussing it with our Israeli friends for some time, and an agreement will be signed on the occasion of the G2G meeting between the prime ministers and their various ministers. All in all, it will be a very extraordinary event.”
Corlatean said he and Liberman had already signed memoranda of understandings for cooperation between their two ministries, as well as in education, culture and science.
He expressed concern over the strengthening of far-right parties and “negative developments in other parts of Europe.”
“We are indeed very concerned about the latest developments in Europe and the results of the European Parliament elections,” he said. “We saw a rise in political positions which are not only anti-European or Euroskeptical, not only xenophobic or populistic, but some of them are clearly racist and anti-Semitic. This is why Romania has expressed in very strong terms the condemnation of such attitudes and why we need to cooperate, especially among big political families in the EU, to stop the rise in these political views, and that’s also why a strong connection with Israel is needed.”
Corlatean said Romania’s Jewish community, which today numbers about 12,000, represents “a very strong bridge between our two countries.”
He revealed that Romania was planning to build a government- funded Jewish Museum, while Romanian Jewish immigrants were also building a museum in Rosh Pina and there would also be a bilateral agreement signed between Yad Vashem and the Romanian Education Ministry.
“We have strong connections with the Jewish federation in my country and its president, Dr. Aurel Vainer, who is also a distinguished member of parliament and very active in promoting many positive projects with the Romanian government relating to the history of Romania,” he said. “Holocaust education, remembrance and commemoration are important for us, especially for the younger generation.”
Romania commemorates the Holocaust on October 9, has a national monument dedicated to the Holocaust and unveiled plaques of commemoration at train stations throughout Transylvania, he noted.
“I think this is something that is appreciated here in Israel,” he said.
An estimated 400,000 Romanian Jews perished during the Holocaust.
Corlatean paid special tribute to Nobel prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, whose childhood home in Sighet has become a symbol of Romanian Jewry.
“The contribution of Elie Wiesel is extremely important, for the memory of Romania, and for the town of Sighet, where he was born,” he said.