President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: We just had talks with the President of Israel, Mr Shimon Peres. This is the first time that Mr Peres has visited Russia as President. I am very satisfied with this fact and with the atmosphere that prevailed throughout the talks; I am also pleased with the outcomes of our meeting.
We addressed a wide range of issues, and our conversation will continue during our meal together. Suffice it to say that we began our meeting with reviewing cooperation in agriculture, and even continued this discussion on our way here.
Why did we discuss this? Because agriculture is exactly the sort of area where our countries have great potential for cooperation, and clearly, all components are important to developing full-fledged bilateral relations between Russia and Israel as partners. Thus, we must encourage business ties and contacts in various ways.
We talked about developing contacts in biotechnology and nanotechnology. Overall, I think that technological cooperation between Russia and Israel is a very important aspect in our relations. This is just one example of what we must do.
We certainly spoke about the global situation, existing problems and collisions, regional crises, and the place of Israel and the Russian Federation in the world.
Israel is a nation with which we share close ties, in part because there are so many Russian-speaking emigrants from our country residing in there. But our ties with Israel do not end there. In particular, Israel is a key participant in all talks and contacts related to the Middle East.
We spoke about the fact that Israel genuinely aims to establish peaceful, stable relations with all its neighbours and has corresponding policies. But in order to achieve these goals in the Middle East, very essential efforts are required. Thus, it is imperative to give fresh momentum to Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. To develop such relations and this kind of dialogue, it is important to avoid confrontation, and instead to take a calm approach. It is also necessary for all parties involved in this conflict to renounce any unilateral actions.
As a member of the Quartet of international mediators for the Middle East, Russia will encourage pursuing these goals. I would like to emphasise that we submitted a corresponding Russian initiative on holding a Middle East Conference in Moscow which was supported by all sides. We do not overestimate input of international conferences, but we do believe they are certainly useful today within the context of the ongoing talks which should be further intensified.
Mr President and I exchanged our views on situations in other countries and on regional conflicts, and spoke about how to ease tensions, expressing our hopes in these matters. In my opinion, this was extremely important and useful for our countries. We now have a clearer, more precise understanding of one another’s positions, which is certainly valuable for two states such as Russia and Israel.
There is one topic which is particularly sensitive for both Russia and Israel: the history of the Great Patriotic War and the Second World War. During this war, our nations suffered enormous losses in human lives. Of course, our goal today is to ensure that the true history of these events is not distorted to favour any particular political motives.
We cannot accept calmly when certain countries cast doubt upon the Soviet Union’s decisive contribution to defeating Nazism as well as the events and horrors of the Holocaust. Of course, it is absolutely, completely unacceptable to glorify Nazi accomplices, individuals who collaborated with the Hitlerite regime, or to glorify activities of such individuals or forces. That is precisely why we discussed this issue and prepared a special statement addressing this topic, dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War.
Mr President and I will still have a further opportunity to share views on a variety of regional and international issues, because in addition to holding traditional talks, we will also continue our discussion over a working lunch. Thus, after speaking with you, we will be happy to continue exchanging opinions on these topics.
In conclusion, I would like to once again thank my colleague, Mr President, for finding the time to visit the Russian Federation and for the friendly atmosphere in which our frank talks have taken place. I am certain that they will be to the benefit to the people of the Russian Federation and the people of Israel.
President of Israel Shimon Peres (as translated into Russian): Mr President, I would like to thank you for your kind words and for your invitation.
I feel that we had a very deep, interesting conversation. We discussed a wide range of issues and we will continue to discuss them later. Both of us are interested in making the world a better place, and we both want peace in the Middle East.
We are very impressed with what you said, that Russia intends and is ready to take relations with Israel to the same level that currently exists between Russia and Germany, Italy, and France. We agree that such a level would be entirely appropriate given the existing relations between our countries.
I would also like to use this opportunity to invite you, Mr President, to visit Israel.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.
Shimon Peres: We would be happy to acquaint you with our nation and let you see what is happening there up close, with your own eyes. I think that your visit would be conducive to even more significant development in the relations between our countries.
As for Russia, we have a special attitude toward your nation. We will never forget Russia’s input into the victory over Nazism. I think that if it weren’t for Russia’s participation, it is unlikely that the world would have been able to overcome the Nazi threat. We have not forgotten the horrible price that the Russian people paid for this victory, the unimaginable scope of lives that were sacrificed for it.
I am speaking on behalf of a people that is perhaps the only one which is able to fully appreciate this, because during that war, the shares of population lost by our nations were approximately equal. And the attitude of Israel toward Russia is also based on the historic memory we have of the Soviet Union’s heroic feat.
I would like to emphasise that in Israel, Victory Day is not celebrated on May 8, as in most countries, but on May 9, just as in Russia. When we were establishing the date for this holiday, we wanted to thereby show our respect and emphasise solidarity with Russia’s victims in this war.
We are a small nation, while Russia is a large one. But I think that together, we will be able to make a joint input into making the world better.
We see Russia as a mighty state that is truly capable of helping the entire world eliminate hunger, wars, poverty, and other threats. And Russia’s role is becoming particularly important and influential because the world is becoming more globalised. Russia plays a significant role in the process of establishing peace in the Middle East.
Mr President emphasised the fact that Russia is a member of the Quartet of international mediators, one of the four Quartet participants on whom peace in the Middle East greatly depends: the United States, the European Union, the UN, and Russia.
We have no doubts about the sincerity of Russia’s intentions in promoting peace in the Middle East. This is quite different from the past. I am hopeful and certain that Russia will do everything to prevent the fully plausible detonations in the situation that could potentially occur, particularly in our region.
There are two other topics that are fairly new in our relations: cooperation in the fields of science and technology. We have already begun cooperating in nanotechnologies and we hope to develop cooperation in biotechnologies.
Mr President supported me when he said that Russia is willing to develop cooperation with Israel in agriculture. We believe that Russia is capable of making a decisive contribution to the fight against hunger, which threatens the world. You have sizable farmland, considerable territory, large water reserves, and intelligence. The world needs bread and water. I hope that this is indeed an area where we have great potential for cooperation.
There is another matter of interest to both of our nations.
The Russian language is now quite widely-spoken in Israel. When I walk around in Jerusalem, I can hear that the Russian language is as widespread as it is here. That is why when you come for a visit, you will not need an interpreter.
Dmitry Medvedev: Great.
Shimon Peres: I have a feeling that we are opening a new and important chapter in our relations, and we are jointly able to bring positive results to the world.
I come from a country that does not wish to threaten anyone or destroy anything; but we do not want others to be able to destroy us. I imagine that Russia holds the same position.
Thank you for your hospitality, for your attention, and for this friendly atmosphere.
I would like to just add a comment on Iran. I know that there are a variety of views regarding Iran. I would like to tell my Russian listeners that our attitude toward Iran is complicated and ambiguous for two reasons. Iran has threatened to destroy Israel. It is the only UN member-state that is threatening to destroy another UN member-state.
Along with everything else, the President of Iran denies the fact of the Holocaust in Europe. In my view, this is shameful, for Iran and its people, and cannot be tolerated by intelligent individuals. We are obligated to pay attention to this.
I do not think there is any need to state the fact that we are not threatening Iran, or anyone else. In any case, I am certain that there are ways to reduce dangers and establish peace, and to improve the conditions and living standards for a majority of the planet’s population.
I would like to once again express my gratitude to the President of Russia for providing me with this opportunity to meet and exchange opinions.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.