September 11, 2006
September 8, 2006 – Lisbon – American Jewish Committee Executive Director David A. Harris today praised Portugal’s commitment of troops to the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon and discussed Middle East political and security issues with Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado.
The private meeting with Amado, who took office earlier this summer, focused on the international effort to stabilize the Israeli-Lebanese border, concerns in Europe and among moderate Arab states about the spread of Islamic radicalism, and the threat to regional and global security posed by Iran’s continuing defiance of the international consensus against its nuclear program.
Harris sought clarification from Amado on reports that Portugal, among several European countries, had denied landing rights to El Al cargo aircraft seeking to refuel on flights carrying war materiel during the confrontation with Hezbollah. Amado explained that the EU had taken a position against facilitating weapons shipments while pressing the parties to accept a ceasefire, but that the shift was of limited duration, and Portugal’s policy on landing rights for Israeli aircraft is back to pre-war status.
Amado spoke of the need for European resolve, and transatlantic cooperation, in the face of Iran’s evident pursuit of nuclear weapons capability. He told AJC that he believed only transatlantic unity for a firm line against Iran’s nuclear ambitions – a departure from the continually extended negotiations of recent years – would draw broader international support, and could yield positive results.
Amado also expressed understanding of – and sympathy for – Israel in its battle against jihadist terrorism. He said he looked forward to his first visit to Israel later this year.
The more than one-hour discussion with Amado was one of a series of meetings with Portuguese political and governmental figures, including Dr. Jaime Gama, President of the Assembly of the Republic, and senior diplomats, parliamentarians and Jewish community leaders on the final day of a 10-day AJC diplomatic tour of Europe and the Middle East. That program included a four-day AJC Solidarity Mission to Israel, the second in six weeks, and visits to Rome and Cairo. Harris was joined in the Lisbon meetings by Jason Isaacson, AJC director of government and international affairs, as well as Portuguese Jewish community leaders.
AJC’s visit to Lisbon was the second this year. In March, AJC signed a formal “association agreement” with the Comunidade Israelita de Lisboa, the representative body of Portuguese Jewry. The agreement is one of 22 such AJC international partnerships.