Romanian FM to ‘Post’: Yes to direct talks with Palestinians

Lazar Comanescu downplays European concerns over Donald Trump.

November 20, 2016 07:18
2 minute read.

LAZAR COMANESCU. (photo credit: GPO)

Romania agrees with Jerusalem about the “quintessential importance of direct negotiations” between Israel and the Palestinians in reaching an agreement, Romanian Foreign Minister Lazar Comanescu told The Jerusalem Post last week after holding talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Comanescu was referring to the French plan of holding an international peace conference in Paris by the end of the year, something Israel adamantly opposes, claiming it is an effort to impose a solution on Israel.

Netanyahu has made clear that Israel has no intention of attending such a conference.

The Romanian foreign minister concluded a two-day visit, his second to Israel this year, on Friday morning. He held talks in Jordan before coming to Jerusalem.

Comanescu, who said Israel “appreciates” Romania’s support in international forums, said that his country “has always been saying that it is important to pay appropriate attention” to Israel’s position that “the basis of an eventual solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies in direct negotiations” between the two sides.

“This is something Romania has always been promoting, and what our Israeli friends consider to be the right path,” he said in an interview with the Post.

He added, however, that whatever added value that could come from multilateral initiatives to support the diplomatic process were welcome.

Comanescu termed Israel Romania’s “key partner” in the region.

Asked whether he felt that Israel gets a fair hearing in the EU, which Romania joined in 2007, Comanescu said, “We’ve been, and will continue to be, among the most active promoters of good cooperation between Israel and the EU.

Our Israeli partners really appreciate what Romania is doing as a member of the EU for the development of this cooperation.”

Romania, along with other former Soviet bloc countries such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Estonia, are countries Jerusalem often turns to inside the EU to press its case when Mideast issues are on the agenda.

Comanescu pointed out that Romania was the only Soviet-bloc country that never cut off diplomatic ties with Israel, having uninterrupted relations since 1948.

He also said that an estimated 500,000 Israelis are either of first- or second-generation Romanian descent, something that has helped in the development of strong bilateral ties.

Asked whether he shared some of the concerns voiced in Europe with the election of Donald Trump in the US, Comanescu said that he is “absolutely convinced” that there is an awareness on both sides of the Atlantic of the need for a strong trans-Atlantic alliance.

“We have to accept that there are nuances between what someone says during an election campaign, and what is done afterward,” said Comanescu.

During the campaign, Trump raised concerns in Europe because of his comments that NATO was obsolete, and that many NATO countries are not paying their fair share of the alliance.

He suggested that America’s commitment to the alliance may be dependent on how much each country spent on its own defense.

Comanescu said that even before Trump’s comments, Romania decided that it would raise its annual defense budget from some 1.7% to 2% of its GNP.

He said it was valid to ask the members of the alliance to pay their fair share of the bills, and expressed confidence that the commitments inside NATO will be implemented, saying, “I do not see an alternative to a strong trans-Atlantic link.”

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