Spanish FM: Abbas wants negotiations with Israel

Garcia-Margallo tells Peres that Abbas asked him to convey message that he would like to see confidence building measures.

President Peres and Spanish FM Garcia-Margallo 370  (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
President Peres and Spanish FM Garcia-Margallo 370
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wants to negotiate peace with Israel and would like to see an offer of confidence-building measures, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia- Margallo told Israel’s President Shimon Peres on Tuesday.
He spoke with Peres after meeting with Abbas in Amman on Saturday and explained to the Israeli president that his country wanted to help ensure that a two-state solution is reached.
“I had a meeting with President Abbas and I felt that he is willing to negotiate a peace process. He asked me to convey a message that he would like to see confidence-building measures regarding political prisoners and the problem of the settlements,” Garcia-Margallo said.
“I transmitted to him and to the Jordanian authorities and now to you that you can count on Spain for any help we can offer to bring peace to this city, this city of peace,” Garcia-Margallo said.
He spoke amidst a renewed US push to rekindle direct Israeli- Palestinian negotiations, which have been largely frozen since December 2008.
But the Palestinians have insisted that they will talk with Israel only when it stops West Bank settlement activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem.
Israel has refused to cede to that request and has instead called on the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table without preconditions.
At a conference held by the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said that direct negotiations were the only way to achieve a two-state solution. He urged both Israelis and Palestinians to take steps to create an atmosphere in which those talks could occur.
US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke of a new economic initiative for the Palestinians to help create a better climate for talks, when he visited the region two weeks ago.
He had promised to unveil that plan last week, but has yet to do so.
During their meeting, Peres told Garcia-Margallo, “Peace with the Palestinians is Israel’s policy. To overcome the remaining gaps, we have to negotiate, and I believe that the Palestinian Authority and its president, President Abbas, are a partner that we can and should negotiate with.”
The two men also discussed Syria. Peres told Garcia-Margallo, “The whole world is concerned with [Syria’s] chemical weapons stockpile. It is very much on the world’s agenda.”
Peres thanked him for Spain’s participation in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, along the border with Lebanon.
“I want to also stress your 700 UNIFIL members, which are very meaningful and important in a very dangerous and complicated situation. This is particularly true with the situation in Syria, and the whole world is concerned with the chemical weapons stockpile; it is very much on the world’s agenda,” said Peres.
Peres told Garcia-Margallo that he welcomed the news that the Spanish police had arrested two men on Tuesday suspected of being linked to al-Qaida.
One man, an Algerian, was arrested in the eastern province of Zaragoza, and the other, a Moroccan, in the southern province of Murcia, after a joint operation between Spain, France and Morocco.
Peres said, “By capturing them, you saved the lives of many innocent people and demonstrated to terrorists that they will not be able to operate freely.”
Garcia-Margallo said, “We are very aware of what terror is. We had the first attack in 1965, and we had in 2004 the bombing in Madrid which killed 193 Spaniards. We are fighting and doing what we can in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia, and now we are also involved in Mali, which is a big threat to Europe and in particular Spain.”
The two men also spoke about the economic ties between Spain and Israel, which amounts to $2 billion in annual trade.
Peres said the two countries are also working on high-tech research and development agreements.
While in Israel on Tuesday, Garcia-Margallo also met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.
Following his meeting with Netanyahu, Garcia-Margallo announced that the decision to open a Spanish consulate in Gaza was "frozen" because it was probably not the correct move to make at that moment, Spanish media reported. Garcia-Margallo made these remarks following an hour-and-a-half long meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, with whom he has both "agreements and disagreements," he said at a press conference.
Later, following his meeting with Livni, Garcia-Margallo reportedly explained that he "froze" the decision to open a consular office in Gaza as soon as he learned of the plan from the press. "I did not know about it," he stressed, saying that the decision was made by consular officials at the initiative of the consul general in Jerusalem, who claimed that the reason for opening an office would be to serve Spanish people in Gaza, because doing so from Jerusalem can be complicated. Garcia-Margallo said that the officials had not considered the political implications when making the decision, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported.
"I am increasingly convinced that it is the right decision to freeze [the opening of the office] until the circumstances change," Spanish news site elPeriodico quoted him as saying. He added that this was important because otherwise the move could be interpreted as support for Hamas, which he emphasized was never his intention nor that of those who proposed the idea. According to the report, Garcia-Margallo said that he had conveyed this message to Netanyahu and stressed that the opening of such an office would not have been in the interests of either Fatah nor Israel.
The minister made clear, however, that Madrid had not been wrong in voting in favor of recognizing Palestine as an observer state at the United Nations General Assembly in November, nor had they been wrong in requesting, along with other EU countries, that products from West Bank settlements will labelled in a way that consumers know where they come from.
In her meeting with Garcia-Margallo, Livni urged him to support placing Hezbollah on the European Unions list of terrorist organizations.Reuters contributed to this report.