Aide to Spanish PM: Spain Wants to Improve Relations With Israel

On visit to Israel, foreign and security adviser Carles Casajuana says Spain willing to send troops to Mideast.

Spain seeks to improve its ties with Israel and end the crisis that has plagued bilateral relations since the election of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in 2004, Carles Casajuana, foreign and security policy adviser to the Spanish prime minister, told Haaretz on a visit to Israel that he also aimed to develop a personal relationship with his counterparts - Shalom Turjeman and Yoram Turbowicz.

Spain is examining ways to contribute to the Annapolis peace effort, Casajuana said in an interview this week.

"If Spain is asked to contribute troops to the region - as part of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement - undoubtedly it will respond positively," Casajuana said.

Political sources in Jerusalem say that since Zapatero's election, relations between the two countries deteriorated as the socialist leader sought to restore Spain's traditionally strong ties with the Arab world.

The Spanish prime minister also avoided visiting Israel, even though the two countries commemorated 20 years of diplomatic ties last year.

During a meeting with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni six months ago, Zapatero referred to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a cancer that is metastasizing into all the other conflicts in the region.

During the Second Lebanon War, Zapatero participated in an anti-Israel rally organized by his party, appearing with a kaffiyeh wrapped around his neck. Casajuana, however, described this as a misunderstanding.

The senior aide to the Spanish prime minister said he admired the Israeli and Palestinian "courage, commitment and readiness to compromise in order to achieve concrete results in Annapolis." He added that if Zapatero wins the general elections in March, he will visit Israel and the region.

The full interview will be published next week.

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