Zapatero to the EJC – “Europe and Spain Have Major Role to Play in the Middle East”

European Jewish Congress President Pierre Besnainou and EJC Executive members from Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, the United Kingdom, Austria, Belgium and Romania participated on January 25 and 26, in the second annual Shoah memorial ceremonies organised in Madrid.
They were also received on Friday by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and justice minister Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar.
Referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Shoah and call to “wipe Israel off the map”, Pierre Besnainou expressed his astonishment over the fact that Teheran still counts friends in democratic countries.
The President of the EJC shared with the Spanish PM his grave concern over statements by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who compared Israel’s military operations to the ones led by Adolf Hitler, evaluating that these declarations put the Jewish community of Caracas in danger.
During the meeting, Spanish PM Zapatero declared that a positive outcome in the Middle East peace process and a breakthrough in the Iraqi crises would be an essential stage in bringing an end to terror.
“Europe in general and Spain in particular have a major role to play in the Middle East, where the peace process must be genuinely resumed”, stated M. Zapatero and Besnainou.
Pierre Besnainou noted that foreign minister Moratinos had remarkable knowledge of the complex situation in the Middle-East and encouraged Prime Minister Zapatero to travel in the near future to Israel, a country for which the Spanish PM declared he had ‘profound respect’.
Such a visit could contribute to a better understanding of the political stakes in the search of peace.
On the issue of intolerance, the President of the European Jewish Congress congratulated Prime Minister Zapatero for the fact that anti-Semitism was not a major preoccupation in today’s Spain, a country which symbolises respect for human rights and democratic values.

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