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General News of Thursday, 12 February 2015

Source: Cameroon Tribune

Interview: 'Mutual, direct negotiations needed to achieve peace'


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Nadav Cohen, Ambassador of Israel to Cameroon explains his country’s relations with its neighbours and happenings in the Middle East.

Q: What is the current state of relations between Israel and its neighbours, especially the Palestinians?

A: There are neighbours with whom we have peace agreements and others from whom we still face threats. We have peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. In Lebanon in the North we have these threats from the Hezbollah terrorist organization supported by Iran.

With Syria in the North East, besides the traditional rivalry, due to the civil war we face again a threat from Hezbollah and now we have also a new enemy called the "Islamic State."

It is true that we have a peace agreement and good relations with Egypt, but we still face attacks in the South from Al-Qaeda affiliated organisations based in Sinai from time to time.

In the South West the Arab Palestinians terrorist organisations led by Hamas attack Israel from the Gaza Strip including launching many rounds of rockets and mortar bombs.

Indeed, we have peace agreements with the Palestinian Authority but they breach it more and more by taking unilateral steps. Besides our close security challenges, we face threats from Iran and Al Qaeda in general.

Talking of these relations, we can divide them into political, military, water, economic and health cooperation. Truly, we still have unresolved political disputes with the Palestinian Authority that also affect our relations with Egypt and Jordan.

But when we look at other characteristics of the relations, we have good cooperation in many areas on the ground. We really appreciate the fact that in general, the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan have lasted and survived along the years despite different challenges.

In general, there is more cooperation on health, economy and water issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authorities than the ties between the neighbouring Arab countries among themselves. The land in which we all live is very tiny and we have no choice but to cooperate on a variety of issues.

Q: Previous Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have failed to produce the desired peaceful co-habitation between the two peoples. What would Israel propose for future results-oriented negotiations?

A: Since the Israelis and the Arab Palestinians started the peace process in 1993, Israel is the only side which has either proposed or welcomed concessions and the Arab Palestinians have never accepted them.

For example, the various peace proposals by President Bill Clinton in 2000, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008 and the last one by Secretary of State, John Kerry in 2014, have been accepted by Israel but the Arab Palestinians have either rejected them or not officially responded.

Moreover, the peace process, along the years, suffered from many terrorist activities initiated by the Arab Palestinians sometimes also involving organisations connected to the Palestinian Authority. The only way to achieve peace is through mutual and direct negotiations and supported by cooperation activities.

Q: What are the new areas of Cameroon-Israeli cooperation in 2015?

A: The main effort of the Embassy today is in the area of agriculture. We try to enlarge the scale of our activity by joining different foreign frameworks that collectively help Cameroon to promote its national programs in agriculture.

In addition to that, last year, the Embassy of Israel in Cameroon was involved in a humanitarian project where more than 5,000 children were vaccinated in a refugee camp in Gado-Badzere for Central African Republic refugees. We also brought, to the same camp, two Israeli football trainers to organize football activities for older children.

Besides that, two Israeli physicians trained about one hundred medical personnel from hospitals in Yaoundé as part of Cameroon’s general preparation against the Ebola virus. We hope that in 2015, we will be able to do more of such activities.

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