serbian fm with tzipi li.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The main obstacle to peace in the Middle East is the "stubborn refusal" of certain Arab countries and organizations to recognize Israel's right to exist, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic declared Sunday while on a visit to Jerusalem, which he called the capital of Israel.
"I fully understand the fear of the Jewish people, because refusal to recognize the existence of Israel must remind Jews of the Holocaust and seem a demand for a new annihilation, and this couldn't be a basis for negotiations," Draskovic told The Jerusalem Post.
Draskovic said he could well understand the importance of recognition for Israel since the lack of recognition of Serbia's territorial claims to Kosovo form the central cause of the conflict there between the province's Albanian Muslim majority and its tiny Serbian minority.
Others have asserted that Serbia is at fault for not recognizing the right to self-determination of Albanians in the region.
One of Draskovic's chief goals in coming to Israel was to garner support for Serbia in its bid to retain control of the strife-ridden province, which he described as the "Serbian Jerusalem" because of its central place in Serbian history and religious tradition.
Draskovic said the parallels between the experiences and treatment of Israel and Serbia by the international community should draw the two countries together. He alluded to criticism in the UN and media.
"Many newspapers are writing that Israel is terrorist No. 1 in the Middle East [and] that Serbia is terrorist No. 1 in the Balkans. We're not. This is the wrong perception of us - both of us," he said. "We have to support each other."
To that end, Israel and Serbia signed two memoranda Sunday, one easing certain visa restrictions and another pledging bilateral cooperation. Draskovic also met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu.
Draskovic said he was fully satisfied with Israel's response to his requests concerning Kosovo.
At a joint press conference, Livni said, "I believe in an agreed solution and in compromise and bilateral discussions, and not in forcing both sides to accept something that is being enforced from the outside."
Kosovo, while nominally under Serbian jurisdiction, is currently being run by the United Nations Mission in Kosovo in anticipation of a final-status resolution.
Draskovic stressed the centrality of Jerusalem, referring to it as "the capital of Israel." But the Serbian ambassador to Israel, Miodrag Isakov, indicated that the country has no immediate plans to move the embassy to Tel Aviv.
"Jerusalem is the capital of Israel," he said. "Where the administrative capital is [located] is less important. More important is that we do recognize and admit Jerusalem as a capital."
Those efforts are being led by the same "quartet" - the US, EU, UN and Russia - that spearheaded the road map and is working to find accommodation between Israelis and Palestinians.
If there is any question about Israel's right to exist, the Serbian foreign minister said, then the quartet states "also have no right to exist, because the historical roots of all of them are here."
Draskovic, a devout Christian, will be visiting Jerusalem's Old City, Nazareth and Galilee during his three-day stay. He will meet with representatives of the Orthodox Church but not Palestinian officials.
Those comments reflected Serbia's position on the issue, according to Draskovic.