Baltic Leaders Affirm Support for Two-state Solution After Meeting Netanyahu, Stay Mum on Jerusalem

Prime ministers of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia say they discussed with Netanyahu the Middle East peace process ■ Statement made despite premier's claim that the trip's goal is to change EU approach to Israel

Benjamin Netanyahu, Saulius Skvernelis, Maris Kucinskis and Juri Ratas listen during a news conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, Friday, Aug. 24, 2018.
Mindaugas Kulbis/AP

LITHUANIA – The prime ministers of the three Baltic nations, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, expressed their support on Friday for the two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In a joint statement issued after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the three heads of government said they reaffirmed their support for the two-state solution and Israel’s right to exist in security and peace with all its neighbors, including the Palestinians.

>> Netanyahu expands his struggle against EU during Baltics visit

The sentence was noted for omitting Netanyahu's name. The entire joint statement was made despite Netanyahu saying before and during his trip to the Baltic nations that his main goal for the trip was to challenge the consensus in the European Union on issues concerning Israel.

Netanyahu met on Friday jointly with the prime ministers of the three Baltic states: Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis and Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas, along with other senior officials from the three nations. The meeting was held in the national library in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

The statement issued after the joint session said that Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Israel discussed the Middle East peace process and the need for a solution based on mutual recognition and effective security agreements. The parties emphasized their hopes that direct negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians would lead to a solution to the conflict.

Netanyahu also spoke about the disagreements with the EU over Iran: "I think that the decision [Thursday] by the EU to give 18 million euros to Iran is a big mistake. It's like a poison pill to the Iranian people and to the efforts to curb Iranian aggression in the region and beyond the region," Netanyahu said.

Giving money to the Iranian regime at this time is a great mistake and must be stopped, added Netanyahu. All countries must work together to renew the sanctions on Iran in order to put pressure on the regime to stop its aggression and terrorism, he said.

Before leaving for his visit, and during the press conference on Friday, Netanyahu stressed that part of the purpose of the trip was to balance “the not always friendly EU approach toward the State of Israel, in order to achieve an approach that is more fair and genuine to the State of Israel. I do this through contacts with blocs of countries within the EU, the countries of Eastern Europe, [and] now with the Baltic states and, of course, with other states.”

Ratas told Haaretz at a joint news conference of the four prime ministers on Friday that his country supports the European Union’s position on the two-state solution and the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both countries. Ratas said he supports the joint European position for a two-state solution and wants to see peace in the Middle East. Estonia held the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU last year. 

The four prime ministers discussed relations between Israel and the Baltic states in the area of security and trade in their meeting. The Lithuanians are particularly worried about the need to protect the ships that supply the country with natural gas from possible Russian threats. Netanyahu mentioned Israel’s complicated relations with Russia, saying the countries do not always agree on everything in light of their regional interests in Syria.

In the joint statement, Netanyahu expressed his support for the position of the Baltic nations against Russian aggression in Ukraine, despite the sensitivity of the issue for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The four prime ministers reiterated their support for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine and said they remain convinced that the solution for the crisis in the eastern regions of Ukraine can be reached only within the framework of UN Security Council Resolution 2202.

This is the first time an Israeli prime minister has been invited to such a joint meeting with the Baltic nations.

Earlier on Friday, Netanyahu met with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, and later in the day took part in in the official memorial ceremony at the site of the massacre of Jews at Ponary, just outside of Vilnius, where 70,000 Jews were murdered during World War II. The joint statement also said the countries are committed to fighting anti-Semitism.

On Sunday, Netanyahu will meet with representatives of the local Jewish community at the Vilna Choral synagogue that survived the Holocaust and will visit the grave of the Gaon from Vilna.