STA, 10 July 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar reiterated that Slovenia would recognize Palestine as part of a smaller group of EU countries after a meeting with his Palestinian counterpart Riad Malki in Ljubljana on Wednesday, confirming the continuation of existing efforts aimed at recognizing Palestinian independence.
"We will continue with activities designed to form a smaller group of EU member states as soon as possible which would along with Slovenia recognize Palestine as an independent country," said Cerar.
"We haven't abandoned this plan of ours; it's still the main aim of our foreign policy," the minister pointed out.
According to Malki, Palestinians are looking forward to Slovenia's recognition. "We know there is the will to do that, but they are probably waiting for the right moment. We hope this moment will arrive soon," said the head of Palestinian diplomacy.
#Slovenija?? ostaja aktivna podpornica palestinskih prizadevanj v medn. org. in prebivalcem Palestine?? pomaga s konkretnimi projekti. Februarja je @ITFsi začel s projektom Psihosocialna pomoč žrtvam konfliktov in pomoč na področju rehabilitacije v #Gaza in Zahodnem bregu. @MZZRS pic.twitter.com/jJoXFCS5oa— dr. Miro Cerar (@MiroCerar) July 10, 2019
Cerar told Malki that Slovenia would continue to support Palestine within international organisations and assist it with financial and humanitarian aid.
The pair discussed the Palestinian-Israeli relations and the regional situation as well.
According to Cerar, Slovenia supports all initiatives aimed at dissolving tensions between Israel and the Gaza strip, which is under the protection of the UN and Egypt, as well as the continuation of the intra-Palestinian reconciliation process.
The Slovenian minister also called for restarting the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"Slovenia, as an active EU member, advocates that the only solution (for this conflict) is a solution of two states - within the borders set in 1967 and with Jerusalem as the capital if the two sides do not agree on something else," highlighted Cerar.
According to him, Slovenia wishes that the suffering of the Palestinian nation would cease as soon as possible.
Malki said that Palestinians were striving for a peace agreement with Israel through direct political negotiations. He also expressed hope that the agreement would be reached soon.
The minister urged Israel to recognize the right of the Palestinian nation to self-determination and independence and enter into political negotiations, based on the two-state solution, with Palestine.
Malki highlighted that for Palestinians the continuation of Israeli occupation was unacceptable, which is why they were willing to respond to all Israeli security concerns.
"If a single Israeli soldier remains on the Palestinian territory, that would indicate the continuation of the Israeli occupation and would be unacceptable," said Malki.
Palestinian President Mahmud Abas even suggested the presence of a third party, mentioning NATO. Thus Israeli concerns would be addressed and Palestine protected against possible Israeli army invasions, said the Palestinian minister.
Malki also condemned Israel's efforts to annex individual parts of the West Bank, attempts which had been encouraged by the recent actions of the US administration such as the recognizing of the illegal annexation of Syrian Golan Heights.
Cerar highlighted that Slovenia allocated its biggest humanitarian donation so far to Palestine - half a million euro for installing a water desalination plant in Gaza. The rest of the financial aid (EUR 70 million) will be earmarked by the EU Commission.
Slovenia's aid includes providing rehabilitation and psychosocial support to victims of the Gaza-Israel conflict.
The Ljubljana URI Soča rehabilitation centre has treated more than 100 children from the conflict region in the past decade, while some 300 of them have been treated in Gaza as part of a joint project of the centre and ITF Enhancing Human Security (ITF) organisation, said the Foreign Ministry.
Slovenia is also setting up a rehabilitation centre for the West Bank and Gaza victims at the Bethlehem hospital Harmalah in cooperation with the ITF organisation and the URI centre. The country has contributed EUR 165,000 for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) for the 2018-2020 period as well.
The Palestinian minister thanked Slovenia for its political and victim rehabilitation support. "Slovenia has a very special place in our hearts," he said.
Along with Cerar he called for strengthening Palestinian-Slovenian cooperation including in economy, tourism, education and culture. "All of these forms of cooperation strengthen the good friendly relations are are a form of aid and support to the Palestinian nation," said Cerar.
Malki, who had visited Slovenia twice before, was also scheduled to meet Speaker Dejan Židan, the Foreign Policy Committee chair Matjaž Nemec and the head of the Palestinian-Slovenian friendship group Matej T. Vatovec.
Židan highlighted Slovenia's strong affection towards Palestine, especially in terms of understating the meaning of the right to self-determination.
He expressed support and advised persistence in Palestine's efforts for independence, saying its recognition can speed up the peace process, the parliament's press service wrote.
The pair moreover expressed the importance of multilateral cooperation, which Malki noted was particularly important for giving small countries security and a sense of being protected by the global system and its agreed rules.