Right of Reply: We just want to help make peace

An open letter by the ambassador of the Russian Federation.

sergev Lavrov 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
sergev Lavrov 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Diversity of opinion and approach to regional and international issues is a necessary attribute of a free press. A respectful attitude to the opponent's position is a principle of diplomacy as well. That is why I carefully studied the assessments expressed in Herb Keinon's page one report on March 26 concerning Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's recent visit to Israel and his proposal to hold an international Middle East peace conference in Moscow, as well as the Jerusalem Post editorial the next day. The Post's well-known reputation for high standards and objectivity compels me to address you personally, Mr. David Horovitz as editor-in-chief. I must say I was surprised by what I consider both articles' biased assessment of the atmosphere and essence of the Russian-Israeli talks. As a direct participant, I can assure you, Mr. Editor, that the meetings focused on a wide range of issues, including both bilateral and those dealing with the current, still complicated situation in the Middle East. All the discussions were held in a cordial atmosphere of respect for each other's opinion that has become the norm in our political dialogue. In addition, I would like to point out that the partnership character of the Russian-Israeli relations was once again reflected by Mr. Lavrov and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni signing an agreement ending visa requirements for Russian and Israeli citizens. I believe that the Russian foreign minister's visit here on March 20 and 21 will go down in history primarily due to this important document which promotes the interests of both peoples. In this regard I think that describing our negotiations as a "lecture" by Lavrov - as the Post did - is incorrect and, I am sorry to say, highly superficial. Political dialogue on such a level is a trustworthy and creative exchange of views between partners who can either agree or disagree while still respecting each other's opinion. IT REALLY is beyond comprehension why one should seek out "subtexts" from a forthright statement declaring: "We want to see the Middle East a region of peace and stability, where all states, including Israel, live in security, in conditions that are optimal for development, for solving economic and social problems and for the closest cooperation with each other," as read by Mr. Lavrov at the joint press conference he held with Tzipi Livni after their talks. Neither should one look for any implicit goals in the Russian proposal to hold a meeting in Moscow gathering together a wide regional and international representation to promote the peace process launched in Annapolis. To consider this idea as a revival of "imperial ambitions" is to misinterpret Russia's fundamental and sincere support for Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and any other steps which could lead to peace and stability in the Middle East. We are convinced that a Moscow meeting on the Middle East is needed to accelerate the implementation of understandings reached within the framework of the Annapolis process. In this we are guided by the interests of all the partners in the region and by the necessity to put an end to terrorist acts which we unequivocally condemn, as well as to prevent violence and civilian suffering. That is the main reason why we are proposing the conference to Israel and other possible participants. NEITHER ARE we challenging the priority of the Israeli-Palestinian track of the Middle East peace process. The Moscow meeting can actually further it. We believe that lasting and durable settlement in a region such as the Middle East, where all is tightly interconnected and interlaced, should be comprehensive. In our view, the region will only gain if the Moscow forum touches upon issues of multilateral cooperation. We are confident that the meeting in Moscow is necessary and timely. No doubt that it will have not only regional but international significance as well. I would like to quote President Vladimir Putin, who said recently that "we want this to be a joint event and we want everyone who takes part to have an equal interest in achieving positive results at the meeting if it goes ahead." As for the other issues raised in the articles, permit me to comment on them, Mr. Horovitz, by quoting from my statement at the meeting of Jewish Agency Board of Governors in Jerusalem on March 24: "For the Russian ambassador, the security of the State of Israel and its citizens, among whom there are one and a half million Russian-speakers, is not an abstract issue. We can have different views on how to achieve it, but we play on the same ground together with you as well as the Americans, the EU, UN, the Palestinians and those countries of the Middle East who are truly interested in peace in this long-suffering region." The author is the Russian ambassador to Israel.