ZAGREB, July 29 – Israeli President Reuven Rivlin welcomed Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic at his official residence in Jerusalem on Monday, saying that under her leadership Croatia has been a strong ally to Israel in the EU, the UN and other multilateral formats.
“Israel has been discriminated against in the UN for decades, but we must never accept that as a norm and it must stop,” Rivlin said, adding, “Thank you for opposing the hatred towards Israel.”
He recalled that this was their third meeting and that a number of meetings between high state officials had been held in the meantime which, he said, was a reflection of the warm friendship and increasingly strong ties between the two countries.
Rivlin said that Croatia, which takes over the EU presidency in January, would have an even more influential role in regional and global security, and called on the EU to see to it that Iran did not have nuclear weapons.
I also call on the EU to see to it that Iran no longer transfers weapons and missiles to terrorist organisations and continues to destabilise the Middle East. Iran is a danger not only to Israel but the whole world, he said. We are faced with the same threats and we must therefore deal with them together, he added.
Speaking of Israeli-Croatian cooperation, Rivlin regretted that last year’s cooperation which he called important and complex had fallen through, but reiterated that the relations between the two countries remained strong.
He was referring to Croatia’s failed attempt to purchase modified Israeli fighter jets F-16 due to US restrictions.
I believe we can turn our friendship into a strategic partnership, Rivlin said, citing energy, agriculture, defence, cyber security and science as areas of common interest. We can also do more in tourism and investments, he added.
He also mentioned the devastating wildfires which had hit his country and Croatia’s assistance, saying true friendship was shown in difficult times. We will never forget that, he added.
Rivlin remembered his state visit to Croatia last year and a tour of the Jasenovac memorial, saying it was necessary to work together on remembrance and teaching about the Holocaust.
He invited Grabar-Kitarovic to a meeting of world leaders in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020 for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. I hope you will join us as president of the country chairing the Council of the EU, he said.
The Croatian president accepted the invitation and said the numerous high level meetings between the two countries were a clear indicator that the relations were developing as well as turning into a strategic partnership which, she added, was the main goal.
She said Croatia would be a steady friend to Israel in the UN, NATO and the EU. We will chair the European Council in the first half of 2020 and remain an important and reliable partner in many areas, she said, adding that Croatia stood by Israel at a challenging time and would continue to do so.
Grabar-Kitarovic said that during its EU presidency next year Croatia would promote a balanced stand on Israel and see to it that Israel’s voice was heard in the EU and its institutions.
She said she would again visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Centre and pay her respects to the victims. She recalled that Croatia and Israel would extend their memorandum on teaching about the Holocaust for another five years.
Recalling the visit she and Rivlin paid to Jasenovac last year, Grabar-Kitarovic said that although she visited such places quietly, on that occasion, together with her good friend, she had to express her condolences and regret that such a beautiful place had been turned into a place of horror. Jasenovac was a concentration camp under the 1941-45 Nazi-styled Independent State of Croatia.
She went on to say that Dubrovnik has the second oldest synagogue in Europe and that the Croatian government was co-financing its renovation.
Grabar-Kitarovic said she was pleased she would visit Haifa on Tuesday to attend the signing of a memorandum of cooperation between that Israeli port and Croatia’s Rijeka. Our port is your shortest route to central Europe, she added.
Grabar-Kitarovic said the failed fighter jet deal did not discourage the two countries in their attempt to boost cooperation in many areas, from defence to the economy, agriculture, military and technical cooperation.
She also emphasized the need to introduce direct Tel Aviv-Zagreb flights.