Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,(Friday, 24 August 2018), at the Lithuanian National Library in Vilnius, attended a summit meeting with the prime ministers of the Baltic states (B3+1): Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis and Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas. This was the first time that a Prime Minister of Israel has been invited a summit of the Baltic States and has visited Lithuania.
Attached photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom (GPO)
The prime ministers first held a private meeting and then an expanded meeting with their entourages. Among the issues discussed were strengthening Israel's relations with the Baltic states and increasing cooperation in various areas. Israel ascribes great importance to developing relations with another bloc of European countries.
Following their meeting, the prime ministers held a press conference (see below), after which they met again over lunch.
Prime Minister Netanyahu issued the following statement at the joint press conference:
"This is a wonderful opportunity to make a historic beginning. This is the first visit of an Israeli prime minister to the Baltic states, to Lithuania. It is deep with meaning, both in a historical sense with the experience of the Jewish people, the community that had been here was destroyed, was reconstituted really in the Jewish state which now comes here to the reconstituted democracies of the Baltic group. We're all small democracies but with giant spirits of our people. Committed to freedom, committed to liberty, committed to seizing the future and I think that we can seize it better together.
I am delighted that the Prime Ministers have accepted my invitation to have the next or future B3 meeting in Jerusalem. We want to enhance it with a meeting of Baltic business and technological people, and scientists, because I think this is where our future is.
We discussed two big areas. The first is the area of innovation. The future belongs to those who innovate. There are tremendous intellectual powers in Israel, in Estonia, in Latvia, in Lithuania. And if we pull them together for certain projects, and we have some ideas, clear ideas in mind, then we can make our people advance at a much greater pace to be at the cutting edge of certain industries, even new industries that people have not realized. I give one example in cyber and you can give other examples here, whether it's lasers or government where there is tremendous advancement here, and in other areas, that I've admired in the Baltic region.
We can be at the forefront. The fact that we are small doesn't mean that we can't be big. If we focus our energies in the technologies of the future and we harness the talents of our people we can be very big. And I think this is the first area.
The second area is security. We are already cooperating in a number of security and defense related areas. And here too I think that we can do a great deal more. We discussed this in some detail and I believe that more can be done.
I unabashedly asked the help of my friends here in making, correcting what I think is a distorted position, a distorted view on Israel in the EU. I don't mean the EU countries, we are doing that on our own with all the countries of Europe, large and small. I'm talking about the organizations as such. We discussed a number of ways that we can advance better agreement.
One of the areas that I think is not fully understood is Iran. The nuclear deal with Iran threatened Europe as well because it didn't really stop the race to a nuclear weapon. In fact, it enabled Iran to pursue the enrichment of uranium unlimited within a few years what would open the path not to a nuclear bomb but to an entire nuclear arsenal. But at the same time it also brought to Iran's coffers billions and billions of dollars that were used for the purposes of oppressing their own people inside Iran who suffer under that tyranny and of course seeking to expand the conquest of the Middle East to Iran in Iraq, in Syria, in Yemen, in Lebanon and in so many other places.
I think that the decision yesterday by the EU to give 18 million euros to Iran is a big mistake. It's like a poison pill to the Iranian people and to the efforts to curb Iranian aggression in the region and terror beyond the region.
Iran tried to conduct a terror attack on the soil of Europe just a few weeks ago while Iran's Foreign Minister was meeting with European leaders. That is incredible.
And I think giving money to this regime at this time is a big mistake and should be stopped. Where will the extra money go? It's not going to go to solve the water problem in Iran. It's not going to go for Iranian truck drivers. It's going to go to the missiles and to the revolutionary guards in Iran, in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
I think this should be changed. All countries should join the efforts to restore sanctions on Iran in order to press them to stop their aggression and desist on their terrorist activities.
We have had, I believe, not only a meeting of the minds but also a meeting of the hearts. There was a tragedy that befell the Jews here. It was one that resonates for our people and resonates for me personally. My family came from Lithuania over a century ago to what is now Israel. But there is not a person among us who does not know the depth of that tragedy.
The fact that the governments here have taken a strong position, both in restoring Jewish sites and also in fighting antisemitism so unequivocally, so clearly, is something that we appreciate deeply and it's also part of this growing friendship between us.
So from every respect I think that this has been a very, very successful meeting and I hope to continue it as we say next year in Jerusalem."
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