Remarks following meeting between Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem
Tel-Aviv, September 21, 2001
FM Shimon Peres: I want to thank Foreign Minister Cem as the first visitor
in this new year [according to the Jewish calendar], on a day
that Israel enjoyed sunshine without a "bomb-shine". We have had
this morning, until now, a relatively quiet time. And I hope that
if this will be continued, very soon we shall be able to meet
with chairman Arafat, and go ahead in our attempt to bring a
cease-fire and the beginning of the political negotiations.
The relations between Turkey and Israel are in very good shape.
We know that Turkey is also maintaining very fair relations with
the Palestinians and Arabs. We welcome it, because all of us
would like to live in friendship and not in hostility. Having
those sort of relations Turkey can sell very well the purpose of
But for us, Turkey has an additional meaning. Turkey, to the best
of my knowledge, is the most advanced, moderate, and democratic
country in the Muslim world. Now, dealing with international
terror we must be careful not to make nations or religions a
target. Terror is not necessarily a matter of being a Muslim, or
being a Palestinian, or being a Turk. We are not fighting any
nation; we are not fighting any religion. We are fighting terror,
all of us, it is an enemy of all of us.
Turkey is signaling a new leadership, and a very long tradition
of the Muslim world, and I believe Turkey will be followed.
Turkey and Israel, when beginning our relations, we defined that
we are not in an alliance against any other nation. We are
engaged in an attempt to fight dangers, not to fight people. The
enemy is terror, not Islam, and not any other nation.
The world has changed, as it went from national economies to
global economies. So, too, did it go over from national enemies
to global dangers. Today we have armies without enemies, and we
have dangers without armies. We have to face the new
May I say, Mr. Foreign Minister, on your behalf as well as on
mine that we are deeply concerned about the very tragic
experience that the Americans went through. We have full sympathy
with America. America sent her boys to guarantee freedom and
security to so many people, over the last century and before.
America helped save the world from Nazism, from Stalinism, from
Japanese militarism, and this time she became a victim as the
center of freedom.
I do believe that America has the capacity, intellectually and
administratively, to help us organize, all of us, into a camp.
While keeping our different languages, traditions and religions,
we are united against murder, against violence, and against
We had a very good and constructive conversation of the most open
and friendly nature. This is another station in the long road of
building understanding between our two people. It is in that
spirit that I welcome you here. Thank you.
Turkish FM Cem: Thank you so much. I first want to say that I
join in your analysis of the situation, and of course I join in
all the thoughts that you had for the United States. It is a
tragedy. It's an assault, it's terrorism not only against the
United States and the American people, but it is terrorism
against all of us - against human beings. We share the sorrow of
the United States and we believe that we should all participate
strongly in the war against terrorism that is being initiated.
When I say terrorism, of course I agree with you whole heartedly
that terrorism cannot have an adjective, a definition, as to
religion, or anything. There cannot be Christian terrorism, or
Muslim terrorism, or Jewish terrorism. Terrorism does not have a
religion, neither does it have a geography. We cannot say that if
it is terrorism which happened in this part or in the other part
of the world, then we will take it seriously. But if it is
terrorism whose victims are in that corner of the world, we shall
not take it that seriously.
The purpose of my meeting with my colleague Shimon Peres is
first, of course, to talk about this general topic that we have -
a very important one; but also to say how much we support his
efforts to reach a cease-fire. We believe that he did a great job
not only for Israel, but for us all. We support the cease-fire.
And, if we can be of contribution to the cease-fire, we are happy
and willing to do so.
The other motive that I had was to exchange views on how we can
contribute to consolidate the cease-fire - and for this very
reason I am going to meet with Chairman Arafat this afternoon -
and how to build up on the cease-fire, to open the way for
dialogue, for contacts, for negotiations which will eventually
aim at a settlement. The consolidation of the cease-fire, and
hopefully the positive developments that might follow are of at
most importance for us all.
Of course, first and foremost, it's about lives that we are
talking. Cease-fire means an end to the death of innocent
victims, to children, to women. But cease-fire in the context of
our present day has another meaning. We believe that this
coalition that we are trying to build against terrorism, one of
the factors which might have a strong impact on that coalition is
the cease-fire and positive developments that hopefully will be
achieved here in our region, in your region. Because the
composition of the coalition against terrorism and its
effectiveness will be affected by the peaceful developments that
His Excellency has so much contributed to. And therefore, I
believe that it is a mutual responsibility, especially so for a
country like Turkey, who has the unique position, who has the
privilege and the responsibility of being a very good friend of
Israel and of being a very good friend of Palestine.
We have as well discussed with His Excellency, as he has
mentioned, that insensible terminology that is sometimes used. As
I said, no adjective of religious meaning, religious connotation
can and should be used for terror. We believe that at the present
situation we should all be careful about it. This is something
that I asked my colleagues in NATO, in the EU, the EU candidate
countries, to be careful in terminology. And I have to say that,
not because I have asked them, but because they are looking at
the matter from the same optic, especially at governmental level,
there is attention given and correct terminology used. But
unfortunately in most of our media, in our civil societies there
is still that wrong terminology, which does not make it easy for
us all in our quest for a coalition to fight terrorists.
The need for peace and how to consolidate a cease-fire is, of
course, a subject that is for the parties to decide upon. We
don't feel we have a right to have very strong opinions. But I
believe that we can all help this development if we try to talk
with each other. Everything begins by talking with one another.
And so, we firmly support the contacts that hopefully will take
place, and if I may say so, we really do ask our friends from
both sides to get together. We look forward to that meeting
between His Excellency Minister Peres and Chairman Arafat. We
believe that we can all initiate something new, something
hopeful, and to this end we ready as a friend to bring all our
Q & A
Q: Mr. Peres, are you going to set any conditions for your
meeting with Mr. Arafat? Or will the meeting go forward even if
the violence does continue? And also, has Mr. Arafat arrested any
of the people on the list of wanted terrorists that you sent
FM Peres: Our meetings are without any prior conditions. I think
that putting conditions is contrary to the spirit of
negotiations. I don't know for the moment if he did arrest people
or not, but I appreciate the fact that we have had another half
day with a real cease-fire. And if this will be continued through
another sunrise, another sunset, then we shall meet.
Q: Mr. Peres are you going to send any message to Mr. Arafat
through Foreign Minister Cem?
FM Cem: No, I am not a messenger, sorry.
FM Peres: We are not sending a message with Ismail Cem, but a
full package of information. I think Mr. Cem will be able to
report fully the Israeli concepts and hopes, and I am sure he
will do it in the best possible way.
Q: Your meeting with Mr. Arafat, you said it's a special request
of the United States. You said it was the first time United asked
for something from Israel. Can you comment on that?
FM Peres: It is actually the second time, the first time was
during Desert Storm. The United States then asked us to sit
quietly aside, and Israel concurred, I think we did it rightly.
This time the United States is asking from Israel a rather minor
contribution, namely, that we shall sit down and open up a
conversation, a negotiation with the Palestinian leader, Yasser
Arafat. Not to create the impression that this is a war against
Islam or a war against the Arabs. We don't think that it is a war
against the Arabs or Islam, but against terror. They didn't put
any conditions, they didn't ask Israel to give away anything;
they didn't ask Israel to compromise her self-defense policies. I
think that, considering the very generous response of the United
States of America, Israel should really react favorably and
immediately to the request of the United States. I do not see any
danger, I think it is fair and reasonable, and it is the interest
of Israel to keep the best relations possible with the United
States of America.
FM Peres: The Turkish government is in a very special position.
On one hand, they are Muslims; on the other hand, they are
democratic. On one hand, they have a national vision; on the
other hand, they have a world view. On one hand, they belong to
our world; on the other hand, they are also a bridge to another
world. We are very glad that the relations between Turkey and
Israel are in excellent shape - not aimed against anybody, but
really aimed against common dangers, and against common
potentials. We are very careful not to misrepresent these
relations, which are going naturally and politically in the right
FM Peres: We think the world is facing a grave danger. As I have
said, we have gone over from a world of enemies to a world of
dangers. Enemies are national, dangers are global. Enemies are
earthly, dangers are floating in the air. I think that although
America is the who was hurt, the danger is for everybody, for
every people, for the entire world. I think that it is natural
for the United to become the leader, to confront this new
challenge, and always, we will willingly participate, as we did
participate in a coalition to bring down Hitler, or the Japanese
militarism, or even the Stalinist doctrine. All of us are in the
same boat, with the same need. We appreciate that we have such a
mighty country like the United States that is intellectually
capable and administratively able to run the confrontation of
this new danger.
Q: This is question is to the Turkish Foreign Minister. Have you
been invited to join the coalition against terror? And would you
be ready to join even if yours is eventually the only Muslim
country that joins the coalition?
FM Cem: There haven't been invitations extended to join the
coalition against terrorism. Turkey by its unfortunate experience
in fighting against terrorism, of course, is very much affected
by this sickness. We are the forefront of that coalition, which
is going to and which is fighting terrorism. There is no question
For the second part of you question, we don't take up matters on
criteria based on religion. Therefore, of course we will be
there. Whether the coalition is made up of all Muslim countries
or whether there are no other Muslim countries, it doesn't make a
FM Cem: I reject making geographical definitions and
descriptions. This is to say, if there is a terror group in any
country - I don't mean to say only Middle Eastern countries, only
countries in our region, but in any country where there is a
terrorist group or a terrorist center, they should be taken very
seriously. If we are going to fight terrorism seriously, we have
to deal with it all over the world. We cannot only deal with
terrorists in certain areas of the world. So I think if something
serious is going to be done, it should encompass all countries,
whatever the geographic continental location.
Also, sometimes there are definitions of mass terrorism, or mass
victims. Of course this is very important. But each individual,
when he or she is dying, dies for himself or herself alone. So
there isn't much difference when it is one single person being
killed or hundred persons. Yes, there is a difference, a
quantitative difference, but qualitatively there is no
difference. This should all be taken into consideration. There
were two young policemen in Turkey about a week ago, and a poor
young girl passing on the street who were killed because of a
terrorist suicide bombing. For them and for their families it is
the same pain as to those victims who die in mass numbers. We
should take this very seriously, and in order to be successful we
have to be evenhanded and objective in our dealings with