Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday brushed off criticism over his secret trip to Vienna, revealed in Haaretz two weeks ago, telling Army Radio in an interview that the visit was focused on "crucial matters" and that it was not iniquitous in any way.
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Lieberman said that during the secret trip he met with his close friend and benefactor, the businessman Martin Schlaff, but rejected MK Shelly Yacimovich's criticism regarding the meeting, and said he welcomed the State Comptroller's investigation into the matter.
"First thing when I returned from Austria, the first telephone call I made was to the state comptroller," Lieberman said. "I picked up the phone and said I wanted him to check and tell me if the trip was proper or not proper, if everything was in order or not in order. Martin Schlaff is indeed a good friend of mine and I always enjoy meeting with him when the chance arises, and it has nothing to do with my role as foreign minister."
Lieberman added that his secret trip involved important work, but that he could not reveal the details. "Not everything can be babbled about in the media," he said. "I definitely think that the state comptroller should check and say his piece, and unfortunately, I can't go into details. You know, we're talking about crucial matters and not everything can be discussed in the media."
Lieberman also said that he did not hide his Vienna visit from the foreign ministry, and that the trip was even approved by the cabinet. "The plane tickets were ordered through the foreign ministry, I met with members of the embassy, both when I arrived and when I left Vienna," he said. "You can talk nonsense, that doesn't cost anything, but first know the facts and then ask the questions. [Everything was done] according to procedure."
The foreign minister lashed out at Haaretz for revealing the secret trip: "I don't speak on behalf of Haaretz and Haaretz is not responsible for ministers' trips," he said, adding that the details of the trip as published in the paper were not accurate. "I am not the Haaretz publisher and this is not the first time Haaretz has been inaccurate, particularly with regards to Avigdor Lieberman."
In a series of articles on Lieberman's trip, Haaretz revealed the foreign minister met with Schlaff, an Austrian businessman who had long been wanted for questioning by the Israel Police on corruption charges, Lieberman’s office confirmed last Monday. Lieberman additionally met with his close friend and ally, Milorad Dodik, a Serbian nationalist and separatist who currently serves as president of Republika Srpska – one of the semiautonomous regions of Bosnia-Herzegovina.