311_Hungarian foreign minister Martonyi.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
The European Union should not make make an upgrade in ties with Israel
conditional upon progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Hungarian
Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi told The Jerusalem Post on Monday during an
interview at the King David Hotel.
RELATED:Hungarian FM: Neither side should act unilaterally
“We support the upgrade and we do not
think there should be a linkage with the process of the peace talks,” said
Martonyi, whose country is due to take over the rotating EU presidency in
The EU had been expected to raise the level of its ties with
Israel in June 2008 by redrafting the action plan for bilateral relations, which
exists in the framework of the European Neighborhood Policy, giving Israel
special status akin to an EU member state in a host of cooperative ventures. It
was also expected that political contacts would be enhanced.
stalled, however, as the peace process began to unravel in the winter of
2008-2009. As a result, no new action plan was developed. The 2005 plan has been
extended at least three times and is due to expire in December. Israel expects
it will be extended again at that time.
In an article he wrote for the
Post earlier this month
, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule said that
advancing the peace process would help upgrade EU-Israeli ties.
decisive breakthrough in the peace negotiations will pave the way to moving
ahead with the upgrade,” Fule wrote.
Although he stressed the importance
of the peace process and urged the sides to avoid steps that would jeopardize
it, the Hungarian foreign minister, who arrived in Israel on Sunday and left on
Tuesday, said an EU upgrade should be separate from the conflict and hoped there
would be progress in improving ties.
Martonyi added that more than 10,000
Hungarians have Israeli passports and there is a flourishing Jewish community in
“We have very strong historic, cultural, emotional and
economic ties with Israel,” he said, calling it a “bond” that could be
strengthened with help from Hungarians in Israel and Jews in Hungary, many of
whom have contributed to his nation’s scientific, economic and cultural
achievements. “When I meet with representatives of the Jewish community in
Hungary, I say ‘You are a major factor in strengthening the relationship.’”
Turning the discussion to Turkey, Martonyi said he supported that country’s bid
to join the EU as a member state.
“We are one of those member states who
believe that Turkey’s future lies in the EU,” he said, adding, however, that
negotiations would be a protracted process – although it could be helped if
Turkey improved its strained ties with Israel.
“We regret that the
relationship between Turkey and Israel soured,” Martonyi said. “We encourage
both parties to overcome this [and return to the] long-standing friendship and
cooperation which was a major factor in the security of this region.”