Five envoys present credentials to Peres

Five new ambassadors presented credentials to President Shimon Peres on Tuesday and discussed a range of international issues, from Iran to the environment. The new members of Israel's international community are Hungarian Ambassador Zoltan Szentgyorgyi, Cyprus Ambassador Tasos Tzionis, Spanish Ambassador Alvaro Iranzo Gutierrez, Guatemalan Ambassador Jorge Ricardo Putzeys Uriguen and Danish Ambassador Liselotte Plesner. With Szentgyorgyi, Peres discussed the Iranian nuclear program, the global energy crisis and the funding of terrorism by oil-rich states. Szentgyorgyi said that Hungary understood the gravity of the Iranian threat and the instability that it could foment throughout the Middle East. He pledged that the European Union would do all in its power to avert the nuclear peril. In his conversations with all the ambassadors, Peres underscored that the problems confronting Israel today do not pertain solely to Israel but also to the world at large. The conversation with Tzionis focused more on what may be an historic breakthrough in the volatile relations between Cyprus and Turkey. Reunification talks between Cyprus's President Dimitris Christofias (whom Peres met last month in Beijing) and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat are due to begin today. It is the first time since the Turkish invasion in 1974 that there have been direct negotiations between the sides, and both Christofias and Talat have said that they are committed to finding a solution to the partition problem. As far as bilateral relations with Israel are concerned, Tzionis expressed appreciation for Israel's assistance in building water desalination plants. Cyprus needs Israel's help in water management, he said. It is aware of Israel's own water problems and has observed the ways in which Israel copes. Tzionis noted that Israel receives a good deal of medical tourism from Cyprus and expressed interest in building up tourism from Israel to Cyprus. Solar energy, electric cars and water management were among the numerous subjects that came up for discussion in the president's meeting with Spanish Ambassador Gutierrez, who told him that Spain wants to make a contribution to peace in the Middle East and also wants to be part of the Red/Med canal project. Peres invited King Juan Carlos to visit Israel, and Gutierrez passed on a joint invitation from the king and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero for Peres to visit Spain. The king and the prime minister wanted the visit to take place as soon as possible, said Gutierrez, because they wanted to show Spaniards a side of Israel besides the conflict. Peres told Guatemalan Ambassador Uriguen that he was glad that political stability had been restored to Guatemala, and remarked on the good relations that always existed between Guatemala and Israel. Uriguen responded that the new government in Guatemala is determined to strengthen its relationship with Israel. Peres and Danish Ambassador Plesner discussed electric vehicles, and Plesner said that she had debated over what kind of a car to use in Israel, eventually deciding to import a Danish hybrid. The cost of the car before taxes is around NIS 300,000. In 2005, then-foreign minister Silvan Shalom signed a regional agricultural pact with his Danish counterpart, Per Stig Moller. The partners in the agreement included Israel, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. The agreement was sponsored by DANIDA, the Danish International development Agency, and Plesner is keen to advance it. Later in the day Peres received Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, fresh from the latter's involvement in the Georgian crisis, which he said had brought the European Union closer together. In the aftermath of his intense activity with regard to the Russian-Georgian crisis, Stubb, who is on his first visit to Israel, said: "I'm in the Middle East to relax."