FM Plassnik: "Leveraging the Strength of Our Trustful Partnership"

Fiftieth Anniversary of Austrian-Israeli Diplomatic Relations

Jerusalem, December 3, 2006 - "Today we are united by an active partnership based on trust and full of multi-faceted emotions connected with a heritage that is painful in many ways. To me as someone who was born after the horrible time of the Shoa, the openness, friendship, mutual interest, and deep feeling of solidarity which unite us today are a special experience," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik in Jerusalem at a conference to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Austria and Israel.

Foreign Minister Plassnik, who opened this conference together with her Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni, also found clear words for the difficult aspects of Austrian-Israeli relations: "Austria acknowledges the heavy burden of its historic legacy. We do everything possible what people can do today, to understand, to mitigate the pain and to pass on the knowledge about what happened".
It was precisely against this background that the strong human components which united the two countries were of special significance, said the Foreign Minister. "A partnership in practice is also always characterized by the persistent commitment and enthusiasm of individuals. It is these tireless bridge-builders that extend their hands - not despite what happened but because of what happened," said Plassnik. In this context the Foreign Minister referred to the manifold measures taken by Austria in recent years for the victims of the Nazi regime such as the establishment of the National Fund and the General Settlement Fund as well as the amendment of the Act on Welfare Provision of Victims and the Social Insurance Act.

On the occasion of her visit to Israel, Plassnik’s program today also included a number of meetings, among them talks with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Plassnik also laid a wreath in commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust at the Yad Vashem Memorial.
The talks focused on the latest developments in the region and the chances for a revival of the deadlocked Middle East peace process. "Our common search for peace is really the very core of our everyday work on the construction sites of international policy. Today marks a rare opportunity. Only a few days ago Prime Minister Olmert formulated a clear and decisive call for peace which outlined an opportunity for another - better - future for Israel and the Palestinians. Courage and fearlessness are now needed on both sides to seize this opportunity and implement concrete measures," emphasized the Foreign Minister.

Foreign Minister Livni stressed Foreign Minister Plassnik’s special commitment and circumspection with regard to the Middle East, particularly during the Austria’s EU Presidency. Plassnik emphasised the EU’s willingness to provide long-term support for the latest positive moves. "Trust is an indispensable ingredient in any relationship. It takes time, patience, and commitment to re-establish a basis of trust. Nevertheless, it is this work aimed at establishing trust that the Middle East most urgently needs," concluded the Foreign Minister.

Ministry for Foreign Affairs/ Press Department