Economy Has Greatest Potential for Expansion in Relations Between Israel and Estonia

01.12.2004 | 18:58

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Jerusalem, 1 December - In addition to strengthening bilateral relations, the two-day visit of Prime Minister Juhan Parts to Israel focused on the situation in the Middle East and on relations between the European Union and Israel. At the meeting with his Israeli colleague, Ariel Sharon, the Estonian Prime Minister emphasised that Estonia and Israel had good relations, with especially close cooperation in the areas of culture and education, while there was still room for development in economic cooperation.

 "Considering the potential of both parties, the volume of trade between Estonia and Israel is regrettably low," said Prime Minister Parts. When Estonia became part of the EU, the free trade agreement between the EU and Israel also extended to Estonia, and this contributes to trade movement, according to the assessment of Parts; further, the bilateral double-taxation agreement being completed could also advance economic relations. Both Prime Ministers expressed hope that their visit would encourage and enhance business contacts.

Speaking of the Middle East peace process, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon commented that the assumption of office by new Palestinian leaders offers "a new opportunity for relaunching the Middle East peace process". The elections in Palestine are scheduled for the upcoming January, and the willingness to stop terrorist attacks showed that Israel and Palestine could meet for negotiations, said Sharon. The Israeli Prime Minister gave reviewed the plan to close down Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip. "The departure of Israeli residents from Gaza is an important step forward," said Prime Minister Parts, and expressed the hope that it would contribute to the peaceful settlement of the Middle East conflict. Prime Minister Parts also expressed his opinion that the European Union should aim at a better balance in its attempts to settle the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Both parties to the meeting asserted that anti-Semitism had no place in contemporary democratic societies.

Other topics discussed at the meeting included the situation in Ukraine, relations with Russia, and the internal situation in Israel.

At a meeting with Israeli President Moshe Katsav, Prime Minister Parts expressed the hope that a delegation of businessmen would accompany President Katsav during his visit to Estonia next year, so that the plans to establish business contacts could be put into motion.

Besides the Middle East peace process and Israeli-EU relations, the meeting with Knesset President Reuven Rivlin also focused on topics related to Estonia´s recent history. Prime Minister Parts reviewed the situation of the Estonian State before and after the Second World War, and the brief re-establishment of the nation´s independence 60 years ago, before Russian forces reoccupied Estonia. "I hope that you will understand our history, and not be guided by hostile propaganda against Estonia in your assessments," Parts emphasised.

The head of our government visited the memorial complex dedicated to the Yad Vashem holocaust in Jerusalem and participated in a memorial service for the holocaust victims.

During his visit, Prime Minister Parts also visited Tel Aviv University and a popular science park, an incubator of hi-tech companies, financed jointly by the state and private capital.

The Prime Minister will return to Estonia Wednesday afternoon.

Kristi Liiva

Director of the Government Press Office

+ 372 50 74 162

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