FM Lieberman off to Europe

Deputy FM Ayalon commits to road map; FM focuses first on countries friendliest to Israel.

Danny Ayalon 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Danny Ayalon 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman set out Sunday for his first diplomatic mission to Europe, heading for four of the more friendly capitals in a continent extremely skeptical of his intentions. Prior to his departure, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who will also travel to Europe on Monday for separate meetings, told Bloomberg that Israel agreed that a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians would entail a two-state solution. "The government of Israel, because of our democratic tradition and because of the continuity principle, is going to abide by all previous commitments the former government took, including the acceptance of the road map to peace which will lead to a two-state solution," Ayalon said, referring to the internationally backed 2002 peace plan. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has not publicly endorsed a Palestinian state, while Lieberman has already said he accepted the road map, though not the Annapolis process. Lieberman's four-day trip will take him to Italy, where he will meet Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, as well as to the Czech Republic, France and Germany. In Prague, Paris and Berlin he will not meet with the prime minister or chancellor, but rather with his counterparts there. Government sources said it was no coincidence that Italy, Germany, France and the Czech Republic were chosen for Lieberman's maiden trip as foreign minister, because they are among the friendliest countries to Israel in Europe. "Obviously he wasn't going to start by going to Ireland, Spain or Scandinavia," one official said. Numerous European officials have said since the swearing-in of the government on March 31 that Europe would reassess its ties with Israel if Jerusalem did not advocate a two-state solution and continue with the diplomatic process. "If Israel is interested in Italy's support in Europe, it must prove its friendship and demonstrate appropriate policies," Frattini said in an interview with Yediot Aharonot on Sunday. "Israel needs to declare its intention to further the peace process, adopt the Quartet resolutions, contribute to regional peace, and further the dialogue with Syria," Frattini said. Ayalon, meanwhile, is going to Brussels to participate in a security/diplomatic meeting to be attended by EU ambassadors and officials. He is expected to discuss the upgrade in EU-Israeli relations, which some in Europe want to see suspended until it becomes clear that the Netanyahu government is committed to the creation of a Palestinian state. "We do want to see peace and do understand that long-term peace and stability will entail a two-state solution," Ayalon told Bloomberg in advance of his trip. Ayalon, who has attended a number of meetings Lieberman has had with international diplomats since the foreign minister took office, will not be meeting up with Lieberman in Europe. Regarding the Iranian issue, Ayalon said that the Moldovan-born Lieberman could play a key role in getting Russia to impose restrictions on Teheran. "Without Russia we can't have a full and hermetic structure to stop the Iranians," Ayalon said. "I believe that if Russia is on board, China will not stay behind."