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September 6, 2011 11:04 pm

Fischer Discusses Impact of Turkey Trade Loss at Conference of Regional Cooperation

avatar by Joshua Gleis

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TEL AVIV – Israel’s Ministry of Regional Cooperation held its first International Conference of Regional Cooperation at the David Intercontinental Hotel on the coast of Tel Aviv. The purpose of the conference was to focus on ways to improve economic, humanitarian, social, and environmental cooperation between Israelis, Palestinians, and the international community at-large, in an effort to foster peace and improved relations. The conference also sought to highlight the efforts currently underway by the Israeli government — in cooperation with the Palestinians, Jordanian, Quartet, EU and US governments — to improve the economic situation of all sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict through economic means.

Spearheaded by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Regional Cooperation Silvan Shalom, speakers included Israeli President Shimon Peres, Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer, and Kadima opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni. Special Envoy of the Quartet Tony Blair was honored for his efforts to improve regional cooperation.

“We believe regional cooperation is the platform and base for any stability in the Middle East,” Peres explained. Addressing the threat of Iranian involvement in domestic matters of Arab states, the president added that “extremists are trying to take the lead in the Middle East.”

Regarding the conflict with the Palestinians, Peres explained in front of representatives of the Palestinian Authority and others that “it takes two to tango.” He added that Israel was ready and willing to make peace, but that as long as there remained a divided Hamas-Fatah leadership, a peace agreement could not be had. Instead, the president explained, the different sides must focus in the meantime on improving and implementing projects with neighbors in the Middle East and across the Mediterranean region, so as to better sow the seeds of a comprehensive peace agreement in the future.

As Peres reviewed the role that poverty has played in the revolutions of the Arab Spring as well as the social protests in Israel, he highlighted the differences between the two, explaining that in Israel it was “the first time in history that we have revolutionaries, without a revolution.”

In a review of the economic situation in Israel, the Middle East, and the greater region, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer mentioned three particularly notable points. The first was that although Israeli-Palestinian trade was not particularly significant for Israel, it was critical for the Palestinians. The second was that Turkey was an emerging world economic power, and that its loss as a trade partner for Israel would have serious repercussions. Lastly, Fischer explained that although improved cooperation was important for stability in the region, it could never be a substitute for a political solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict – it could only serve to support a political solution.

Attendees at the conference included diplomats, press corps, analysts, and business leaders from over a dozen countries, including numerous European states, Jordan, Egypt, Japan and the United States.

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