Avrasya Bölümü Direktörü, Dışişleri Bakanlığı, İsrail
I wish to first thank the Turkish Asian Center for Strategic Studies for the invitation to address this conference of the International Turkish-Asian Congress. This is an important forum for meeting together and conducting a dialogue that enables all of us to better understand the complex world in which we live, as well as the major developments that are taking place around us.
Israel is part of Asia, and as such has a keen interest in developing relations of cooperation and mutual understanding with the nations of the continent. Thus, upon the break-up of the former Soviet Union, Israel immediately recognized the former Soviet republics that had become independent states. Within a short time, full diplomatic relations were established with all the new countries and active embassies began to function.
As part of the importance that Israel attaches to cooperation and stability in the Eurasian region, we positively responded to the initiative of Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev and joined as a Member State the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia. The dialogue and activity carried out by CICA are important for the purpose of consolidating stable and peaceful environment.
Israel is not rich in natural resources; we only recently discovered the natural gas reserves and these very days our Government is shaping its policy regarding the future management of this unexpected resource. As of now it appears that the quantities of gas will supply Israel's own needs for the foreseeable future, and the possibility of exporting the gas in one way or another is being considered.
However, even if Israel will in the future be an exporter of energy, the most important resource that we possess is the human resource which lies at the basis of the knowledge-intensive industry that developed in Israel during the last decades. This industry enables us to deal with the challenges of the 21st century and to find partners around the world. It also lies at the basis of our economic ties with the countries of Eurasia.
Israel and the nations of Eurasia cooperate today on key issues such as combating desertification, the development and application of innovative methods for irrigation, computer systems and sophisticated communications, renewable energy resources, and even joint activities in space. Between Israel and the countries of Eurasia there is vigorous trade of many products; there are student exchanges and important cooperation in the academic sphere.
Israel is an Observer State and participant in the activities of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation organization, which was established here in Istanbul exactly 20 years ago. The framework of BSEC and, of course, our bilateral ties with the countries of Eurasia facilitates the finding of channels for cooperation in important areas.
In all this broad diversity of contacts, the human dimension is an important component in the relations between Israel and the nations of Eurasia. The fact that many Israelis were born in this region and speak its languages brings countries and peoples closer and grants us the possibility of working together in a more efficient manner in the economic, business, commercial, and cultural spheres.
We believe that long-lasting historical contacts can and should create an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding. Indeed Israel's relations with the countries of Eurasia are based on a longstanding tradition of shared history and heritage. Vibrant and important Jewish communities have existed in Eurasia for hundreds of years, living alongside their neighbors in peace and mutual respect.
During the Second World War, many Jews of Eastern Europe found a haven in the Asian part of the Soviet Union and beyond, sparing them from the horrors of the Holocaust. Thus, the lives of about a million of the Jewish people were saved. Many of the descendants of these survivors, including myself, live today in Israel. We remember and very highly appreciate this gesture of humanitarian brotherhood, which was not to be taken for granted during these terrible days.
Today, in a time of unprecedented global cooperation and relative prosperity, we have the unique opportunity and the rare privilege of bridging gaps and working together for the sake of a better future in our region and beyond.
Thank you very much.