Hungarian FM to EU: Don’t link Israel upgrade to peace

In interview with 'Post,' Janos Martonyi urges Israel, Turkey to overcome strained ties and reestablish long-standing friendship.

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November 10, 2010 03:03
2 minute read.
Hungarian FM Janos Martonyi

311_Hungarian foreign minister Martonyi. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)

 
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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.

“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 January.

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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.

The upgrade 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.

“A 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 his country.

“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.”

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