French, Spanish FMs miffed at leak of Lieberman rebuke

FM denies he apologized for telling Europe to mind its own business.

Liberman speech looking wierd (photo credit: AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Liberman speech looking wierd
(photo credit: AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman did not apologize to his French and Spanish counterparts on Monday for telling them a day earlier to solve the problems in their own backyard before seeking to work out the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a spokesman for Lieberman said Monday.
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos, who along with French Foreign Minster Bernard Kouchner, ate dinner with Lieberman Sunday evening, was quoted in the Spanish press Monday as saying that Lieberman apologized by phone for the remarks.
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Lieberman did not apologize, his spokesman said, but rather clarified that his intention was not to scold anyone. Moratinos and Kouchner were reportedly furious that the content of their meeting was leaked to the press, and called Lieberman to protest.
Moratinos “reminded” Lieberman that “the boss” in Israel is Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has a different view, according to the Spanish press.
“It is not the first time we hear that as Europeans we have to take care of our affairs,” said Moratinos, speaking alongside Kouchner at the French Consulate in east Jerusalem after meeting Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
“If we didn’t have a role, if we didn’t have any weight, if we didn’t have any influence, maybe our friend Lieberman wouldn’t have reacted as he did,” Moratinos said.
Kouchner, according to the Agence France-Presse, said that while Europe did not have the same level of involvement as the United States, it had managed to successfully resolve centuries of conflict.
“Yes, we have problems in Europe. But it is also an example of problem-solving,” he said, noting that Europe is comprised of 27 countries “who were at war for centuries but now get along.”
Lieberman briefly spoke of the matter at an Israel Beiteinu faction meeting in the Knesset.
“Unlike what was reported about my meeting with the foreign ministers of Spain and France, the meal was tasty and there was a good atmosphere,” he said. “It was honest and open, as conversations are with friends.”
Lieberman confirmed that he spoke to Moratinos on Monday morning, but “contrary to what was reported, nobody scolded anyone.”
He added that Israel needed to speak directly.
“We have to stop mumbling all the time,” Lieberman said.
“In Europe I see that they passed the burqa law, and also forbade the building of minarets that are needed near mosques, and nobody got excited. We have to tell the truth without fear and without winking – in the Middle East the weak don’t survive; in the Middle East only the strong survive.”
While Lieberman was not overly welcoming of Europe’s efforts, Jordan’s King Abdullah welcomed European involvement.
He met the two foreign ministers in Amman after they left Israel.
“Europe plays a key role in supporting peace efforts to overcome problems facing the Palestinian-Israeli talks,” the king told the two ministers, according to an AFP report. “A suitable environment should be created to ensure the resumption of the peace talks.
Failing to achieve tangible progress in the peace process will increase regional conflicts, tension and violence.”
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.