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European Commission

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Mr Shimon Peres, President of the State of Israel

Press point/Brussels

7 March 2013

Good morning ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to welcome President Shimon Peres to the European Commission. President Peres's visit follows my last visit to Israel, in July last year.

As you all know, President Peres is a respected personality whose personal life is also a tale of the State of Israel, and I am very glad he could accept my invitation to come to Brussels. Indeed, President Peres visited the European Commission in the past but I think it's the first time that we have the visit of President Peres as President of the State of Israel.

The frequency of our high level contacts witnesses the importance we attach to our bilateral relations.

Indeed, we just had a very productive and fruitful meeting where we discussed the state of play of our bilateral relations, as well as issues of common interest and concern.

Our meeting today comes in a key moment of Israel's political life. Elections to the Knesset were held on 22 January and negotiations for a new government are taking place as we speak.

The European Union expects the formation of a broad and stable government coalition, committed to develop its relations with Europe and to a negotiated settlement for the Middle East Peace Process. I am looking forward to engage with the new Israeli government on a broad range of bilateral, regional and international issues.

We also had the opportunity to address our cooperation at sectorial level today.

Israel is a strong partner for the European Union on a wide range of issues; research and innovation are among them. We highly appreciate the strong personal support of President Peres for this partnership and we welcome Israel’s request for association to the next programme Horizon 2020. We will cooperate to address all issues related to the scope of such association that we believe is mutually beneficial.

Peace has always been among humanity's highest aspirations; we know what "reconciliation" means; we have learned it the hard way in Europe. Now we all recognise how peace is the foundation stone for everything else.

I know President Peres is committed to achieve peace too. So my call here today is to use our energy, our capacity and our leadership to resume negotiations on the Middle East Peace Process.

In this context, we believe that Israel should be fully recognized by its regional partners and should live in security within its borders. At the same time, the Palestinian aspiration to have its own State must be fulfilled.

The European Union remains firmly attached to a two-state-solution. Two states living side-by-side in peace and security. We therefore encourage both sides to support and implement confidence building measures that allow the peace process to move forward. Any actions that may undermine the two-state solution should, clearly, be avoided. We need to avoid that a one state reality prevents a two-state solution.

We remain determined to facilitate contacts between the parties and we will coordinate our actions with partners in the region, namely Egypt and League of Arab States as well as the US.

We also had the chance to discuss the developments in the region, in particular the crisis in Syria. Let me say it clearly: the situation in Syria is unbearable. The humanitarian situation is worsening by the day with refugee number reaching now 1 million. This is a stain in the world's conscience. The international community has the duty to address the situation. We fully back the UN/Arab League special representative Brahimi's efforts to bring a political solution for the conflict. And we believe the Arab League should indeed assume a role in this solution.

Mr President,

I would like to thank you once again for visiting Brussels, and for the very open exchanges we had. You were sharing with me your vision about Israel, about the wider region and also about the world. This afternoon, in another meeting, we will have the occasion to discuss this with more detail, and I want to thank you for this. Once again, and addressing myself to the President of Israel, let me tell you that you can count on the European Union as your committed partner for these very important goals.

Thank you.

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