Official visit
Photo: Erez Lichtfeld

Sarkozy tells Peres France is Israel's true friend

Israeli president meets with his French counterpart, who expresses his unwavering support for Jewish state. Peres focuses on Iranian nuclear issue

France was and always will be Israel's true friend, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told President Shimon Peres on Monday as the two leaders met in Paris.


"The State of Israel's right to exist securely is not debatable, and I believe that since the Holocaust the world bears the responsibility for this. I will continue to support Israel anywhere, as I did in my previous visits to Arab states," Sarkozy added.


During the visit, Peres received France's highest award, the Legion of Honor.


All smiles. Peres and Sarkozy (Photo: Reuters)


The meeting between the two leaders was held in a pleasant atmosphere. Peres was greeted warmly by the French president, who came out to meet him at the Élysée Palace square.


"It is a great honor for me to greet you here as the president of the State of Israel," Sarkozy said, "but it is an even greater honor to greet you as Shimon Peres. I have a lot of respect for you and I view you as a symbol."


He added that he was excited seeing the Israeli flag waved at the Champs-Élysées. He told Peres that he worked uncompromisingly against anti-Semitic acts and did not hesitate to jail people who had burned Israeli flags or vandalized the Israeli Embassy.


Warm reception for Peres (Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom, GPO)


Peres thanked Sarkozy for the warm reception and his great respect for the State of Israel.


"You are a great and positive gush of wind in French politics, and have to power to shatter conventions and prejudice. You secure a better future for France and Europe, and you are one of the most important leaders in Europe and the world."


The Israeli president addressed the Iranian nuclear threat, saying the "Iran's attempts to obtain a nuclear bomb do not only endanger Israel but the entire world. The link between nuclear weapons and terror is destructive and constitutes a great danger, which the democratic countries will not be able to deal with when the point of no return arrives."


Sarkozy stated that the best guarantee for Israel's security and strength was the establishment of an independent Palestinian state "headed by a moderate leadership rather than a group of lunatics."


Peres responded, "We have tried a military option and a diplomatic option in the Middle East, but have not succeeded in advancing the economic option."


The Israeli president took the opportunity to reveal maps of the Peace Valley project and the construction of joint industrial parks for Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians.


Ceremony in memory of attack victims

Immediately after the meeting, Peres held a memorial in honor of the eight students killed Thursday in a bloody terror attack at Jerusalem's Mercaz Harav yeshiva. The ceremony was attended by 500 members of France's Jewish community and the country's chief rabbis.


Peres said during the memorial, "We are a strong people. We shall not break down. We have been through difficult things, wars and terror attacks, and will continue to believe in the rightness of our way. We are united in our grief and strong in our victories."


During the visit, Peres is also expected to meet with French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, as well as the Senate speaker and heads of the Jewish community.


פרסום ראשון: 03.10.08, 21:15
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