Israel says 'no link' of Palestinian issue in Arab turmoil

AFP , Tuesday 22 Feb 2011

Israel insists there is no connection between popular uprisings in the Arab world and in Israel-Palestinian conflict

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman addresses a news conference at the European Union Council in Brussels 22 February 2011. (Reuters)

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, said Tuesday there was "no linkage" between uprisings in the Arab world and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the EU pressed for quick progress on peace talks to ensure stability.

"The Israel-Palestinian conflict is not the main issue, not the main problem," Lieberman said after talks in Brussels on EU-Israeli ties.

"The main reason for instability is poverty, misery, inefficient government," he said at a press conference briefly interrupted by a protestor shouting "Free Palestine! Israel is a criminal state".

"I don't see linkage between Israel-Palestine and unrest in Egypt, Bahrain or Egypt and Libya," Lieberman added.

Hungary's Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, however said the situation across the Middle East called for quick progress in Israeli-Palestinian talks.

"The dramatic changes, the regional instability which result from them ... make progress on the peace process more imperative and more urgent than ever before."

"The time is pressing," he added.

In Brussels for a 10th round of talks on the EU-Israel Association agreement, which covers trade and cooperation in a wide range of fields, Lieberman nevertheless said it was "very important" to see progress in the peace process.

Urging the EU to help bring the Palestinian side to the negotiating table, Lieberman said "It's crucial to keep the political process alive" and expressed hopes that new governments in the region would "respect all the agreements signed in the past."

"I don't see any peace process without direct negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel," he added. "We're ready for direct talks any place at any time."

With the EU currently Israel's leading commercial partner, both sides pledged to move forward in the 11-year partnership that involves trade, agriculture, R&D and police and judicial cooperation.
"It's a solid and vibrant partnership," said Martonyi.

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