Estonia opens Tel Aviv embassy

Estonia opens Tel Aviv e

"I don't doubt that the Israeli government [seeks] the well-being and security of Israeli society, and it [knows] that the only way to achieve that is negotiations," Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. "Logically, what other option is there?" he continued. "I'm quite sure Israeli society wants to [live with] less fear and [fewer] security risks. The majority of Palestinians are the same. Every government wants to do the best they can for their society." Paet spoke to the Post at Estonia's newly opened embassy in Tel Aviv, the tiny Baltic nation's first embassy in the Middle East. Having met with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayad and Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki in the morning, Paet reiterated the Palestinian Authority's denial that it had threatened Israel with a unilateral declaration of statehood. The Palestinian leaders "explained to me that their position is not to go to the UN [to ask for a declaration of statehood]," he said. "They explained that there was some kind of misinterpretation. They want to work with the international community." With just 1.3 million citizens, Estonia is one of the smallest nations in Europe. But its geopolitical significance is magnified through membership in the European Union and NATO. It is an avid supporter of a stronger common European foreign policy, and strongly supports the Lisbon Treaty, an agreement by EU member states that will establish a stronger centralized European governing structure, including an External Action Service that will serve as a foreign ministry for the 27-member union. The treaty has been ratified by all member states and goes into effect on December 1. In the context of this change, Estonia is seeking to expand its foreign policy footprint in European affairs, including on issues related to the Middle East. "For us, it is important that the first embassy in the Middle East is here in Tel Aviv, in Israel," said Paet, citing "very good relations" between the two countries, particularly in business ties and "strong bilateral human ties. "Among Estonians, Israel is important as a tourist and business destination. So [the embassy's opening] is not just political, but also practical - to help our businesspeople and [expatriate] Estonians in the country," he added. The Estonian Foreign Ministry plans to open a second Mideast embassy next year in Cairo, but no others are planned in the region in the near future, he said. "The Middle East was and remains an important area for European and common foreign policy," he concluded. According to EU figures, the new Estonian Embassy means that 26 of the 27 nations of the EU have embassies here, with Luxembourg the only exception.