Suomen ulkopolitiikan asiakirja-arkisto ja kronologia
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Official Visit by Mr Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister of Israel, 22-24.8.1993; Speech by Foreign Minister Heikki Haavisto at a Dinner on the Occasion of the Visit; 23 Aug. 1993

Mr. Minister,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you once more to Finland, Mr. Minister. For us, your visit is another landmark in the good bilateral relations between our two countries. The successful state visit of your distinguished President, Mr. Chaim Herzog, in 1990 is still vividly recalled in Finland.

Mr. Minister,

The useful and interesting discussions we had earlier today demonstrated the good relations between Israel and Finland. Your experience and insight, in particular in the present situation of the Middle East, was most impressive and cast light on various issues pertaining to the political development in that region.

Mr. Minister,

In the Middle East the world community has been witnessing one of the most serious conflicts of our century. Wars and violence have brought loss of life, immense human suffering, and material destruction to the peoples of that region.

The Middle East peace process initiated two years ago seems, however, to offer a tangible opportunity for peace. It is a process which, for the first time, has led to continuous, genuine discussions between the parties concerned. The ongoing nature of these negotiations is in itself an extremely important confidence-building measure. I hope that the parties in the region would refrain from any action that might slow down this process.

My Government appreciates the endeavours that Israel, for her part, has made to encourage the process. We have noted with satisfaction, inter alia, the stated commitment of your Government to achieve peace by compromises in territorial issues. Indeed, the solution to the conflict can only be achieved in a spirit of compromise and conciliation.

Mr. Minister,

We greatly appreciate your personal efforts, as well as those of your Government, to advance this process. Let me also add that there is no doubt in my mind that your country will have a significant role to play, both economically and politically, in developing the Middle East once the basis for peace has been established in the region.

Mr. Minister,

Finland has consistently emphasized the importance of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. Such a peace should be based on the Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. The solution should include recognition and acceptance of the State of Israel and its right to secure borders. It also includes, as an equally essential component, safeguarding and respecting the basic rights of all parties involved, including the Palestinians' right to national
self-determination.

Finland's contribution, in more concrete terms, in supporting a solution in that region has been taking place in the context of the United Nations peace-keeping operations since 1957. At this moment, we have peace-keepers in three operations. Over the years, we also have contributed to the UN efforts to alleviate the conditions of the Palestinian refugees.

These activities have greatly facilitated our understanding of the Middle East problems. They have helped us towards a better understanding of the way of life and thinking of the peoples living in that region and, in particular, to appreciate the complexity of the political situation that your country and the other regional parties are facing while trying to find their way out of the conflicts.

Mr. Minister,

Israel is already one of our most important trading partners in the Middle East. Perhaps the most tangible hopes, with regard to further developing our bilateral relations, relate to economic and commercial co-operation. A big step on this path was taken at the beginning of the current year when the Free Trade Agreement between EFTA and Israel became effective. That agreement has already had a positive impact on the trade between our countries.

In the past decades, both our countries have achieved a high technological level. Nevertheless, our trade still consists mainly of traditional products. We hope that efforts towards a further diversification of the trade between Israel and Finland could be intensified.

Mr. Minister,

Cultural co-operation between our countries is traditional and lively. Also, in the course of the years, a large number of Finnish tourists have come to know Israel. I hope that the envisaged improvement in flight connections between Finland and Israel will increase the number of Israeli tourists visiting our country in the future.

Mr. Minister,

Before concluding my speech, allow me to come back to where I started from, that is, to our good bilateral relations. I wish once again to thank you, Mr Minister, your Government and the Israeli people for the work done to this end. Allow me also to take this opportunity to thank our Jewish compatriots who, while their efforts have not always been without pain, have lent their wisdom and patience in building our common Finnish society and, for their part, have also promoted the good relations between our two countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to propose a toast to the health of the Foreign Minister of Israel, Mr. Peres, to the people of Israel, to peace, and to the continuing development of the good relations between our two countries.

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