ISRAEL'S diplomatic presence in Slovakia got a permanent home for the first time in March with the opening of its embasssy in Bratislava. The ceremony was attended by Zeev Boker, the Israeli ambassador to Slovakia, Yossi Gal, senior deputy director general for political affairs at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and Oľga Algayerová, Slovakia's State Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
Speaking to The Slovak Spectator at the opening, Yossi Gal said "I found out that there was a very strong wish on both sides to continue, strengthen and cultivate bilateral relations in every possible field."
According to Gal, Europe is much more important today for the Middle East. "[Given the] commonality of threats and the problems that we all face, you see why I am so pleased to be here for this opening," Gal said.
Gal further stressed to The Slovak Spectator that Israel would welcome the development of "more economic ties with this fantastically-growing Slovak economy." The Israeli side believes that areas for economic co-operation have been growing.
Gal remarked that one of the issues that came up in his bilateral meeting was the need for both sides to work more closely to create opportunities for the business community. "Europe is our main trading partner. I think that we should do a lot more: we should be more ambitious on the economic agenda in both directions," Gal stressed.
The Israeli Embassy describes Mr Gal as the most prominent senior diplomat at the Israeli Foreign Ministry. He leads the country's delegation at the Donors' Conference at the United Nations, as well as heading the negotiating team with Israel's European partners, and coordinating the ministry's action unit, which deals with topics such as Israel's policy towards Iran.
Gal held meetings with members of the Slovak National Council in order to brief them about the latest developments in the Middle East, the Middle East peace process, as well as what Israel describes as the threat posed by Iran to Europe and the international community.
He told The Slovak Spectator that Iran stood behind Hizbollah and Hamas, supplied them with weapons, explosives and financial support. "Hizbollah and Hamas are doing everything possible to destroy the chances of peace," Gal told The Slovak Spectator. However, Gal said that Israel, with the support of most countries, has embarked on a peace process:
"We started a very serious engagement in negotiations. And I think that we should continue with this policy of working very closely to achieve world peace. And at the same time, let us not allow terror and terrorists to dictate our lives... [or] destroy our chances of peace, or the lives of Israelis."
Last but not least, Gal stressed to The Slovak Spectator that Israel intends to cooperate with Slovakia in the cultural sphere.
"It is very important to continue to work on the memory of the Holocaust and to make sure that anti-Semitism, whenever it appears, is immediately eliminated," Gal concluded.
The new embassy is located at Slávičie údolie 106, in the Stare Mesto area of Bratislava. Israel's diplomatic representation in Slovakia had been housed in temporary premises since November 2006.
17. Mar 2008 at 0:00 | Ľuba Lesná