Latvian president apologizes war crimes

Latvia, which has been occupied for most of its history, has a special sympathy for the people of Israel in their striving for independence.

latvian president 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
latvian president 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Standing in the grounds of Beit Hanassi at a state reception hosted for her by President Moshe Katsav, Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, looking directly at the Israeli military honor guard standing in front of her, apologized to the Jewish people for Latvian war crimes. "We are deeply sorry about the participation of Latvia in the atrocities of the Holocaust," she said, adding that Latvia was deeply committed to its children growing up with a full understanding of what happened under Nazi and Soviet occupation, including the collaboration that occurred. Taking her cue from Katsav, who had referred to parallels in Israeli and Latvian history, Vike-Freiberga said that Latvia, which for most of its history has been under foreign domination, has a special sympathy for the people of Israel in their striving for independence. As for the current situation, the Latvian president expressed Latvia's wish and that of other EU countries for a peaceful settlement, and has urged Hamas to accept the basic standards of international law and international intercourse and to continue a way of peaceful coexistence so that people can have a future free of fear. "Every nation has the right to be respected," said Vike-Freiberga as she reiterated Latvia's commitment to stand by Israel in its right to exist. Katsav told his guest that Israel was again facing frustration and disappointment. Intimating that the election for the Palestinian Legislative Council had not been democratic, Katsav said that immediately afterwards Hamas had declared that Israel had no right to exist and that it would continue its terror activities. "Hamas does not honor the international commitments of the Palestinian Authority," said Katsav. When he was asked by a Latvian journalist to explain what he meant by the PLC elections not being democratic, he responded that if a terrorist organization could take part in an election campaign with a weapon on its shoulders, such an election could not be called free and democratic. On the issue of Iran, Katsav asserted that if the free world stood strong against Iran, it could prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Vike-Freiberga stated that it was not acceptable in international relations for one member of the United Nations to call for the destruction of another. She concurred with Katsav on the need to prevent Iran from developing nuclear capability, underscoring that the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons had been cause for global concern for a long time.