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31 October 2001 - Jerusalem, Israel - official visit
Speech of the President of the Republic of Croatia in Knesset

Mr. Speaker,

Mr. President,

Mrs. Katsav,

Mr. Prime Minister,

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

Honourable Members of Parliament,

I am standing before you as the first President of the Republic of Croatia to visit the State of Israel. I am profoundly aware of the historic significance of this moment, and sincerely grateful for the opportunity given me to address you.

This is the proper place and the proper occasion to get rid of the ballast of the past, which placed a strain on our relations over the last years.

This is the proper time and place for saying what has to be said so that Israel can accept my country as a sincere friend and, I hope, future partner - not only in the interest of our two countries, but also in the interest of security and peace in the region and worldwide.

What I am going to say, I will say with complete openess and sincerely, because in this regard there is not and there should not be place for any unclarities or doubts.

I am speaking on behalf of democratic Croatia, which upholds the traditions of antifascist and freedom-loving Croatia from the times of the Second World War.

I am speaking of behalf of that Croatia which bows with respect and reverence to the memory of the millions of the victims of the Holocaust.

Let me, first of all, repeat literally what I said yesterday to President Katsav: I am using every opportunity to ask for forgiveness from all those who were harmed by the Croats at any time. Of course - from Jews in the first place.

As President of the Republic of Croatia, I profoundly and sincerely regret the crimes committed against the Jews during the Second World War, on the territory of the Quisling-entity called Independent State of Croatia that was neither independent, nor Croatian.

Just as the majority of the Croatian people knew, at the time, that their place was with the antifascist resistance, also led by a Croat, Marshall Tito, present-day Croatia knows that it can build its future and its relations with other countries only on the basis of firm commitment to democracy and freedom, the foundations of which include the imperishable values of antifascism.

Over short period of time, in the struggle for independence and directly thereafter, the tragically misdesigned concept of unity of all Croats resulted, on the one hand, in the denial of the dark pages of our history, and, on the other, in the search for models precisely in such pages.

That time passed and will not come back.

We are fully aware of our responsibility in investigating, trying and convicting war criminals, regardless of their nationality and of the time when those crimes were committed.

There is never too late for trying war criminals.

On behalf of the Republic of Croatia I offer the hand of friendship and cooperation. We shall not find it difficult to identify common interests and avenues for building our bilateral relations and cooperation on the international scene.

Our relations cannot and will not develop to the detriment of any country. Our cooperation, I am confident, will benefit both Israel and Croatia, and the cause of world peace.

The State of Isarel and its citizens are entitled to existence and to life in peace and security. The Palestinians are also entitled to life in peace and security and - like any other people - to life in their own state. Innocent victims are falling today on both sides. If war has marked Israel's past since its creation, if generations of Palestinians have also grown up amidst war, war is not and should not be the future of either Israel or the Palestinians.

The future of both the Middle East and of the whole world must be peace, lasting and just peace. I am saying this as president of a state which won its independence in an imposed war, and believe me, I know what I am saying when I claim that it is better to negotiate for ten years than to wage war for ten days!

I am saying candidly and clearly what I think and believe. We need not always agree, there may be things about which we shall disagree, but what is essential is the opportunity for open dialogue.

It will help us to get know each other better, to break down prejudices and destroy all reserves - where they might still exist. Only in such a way we shall be able to lay the foundations for fruitful and mutually beneficial cooperation in many fields, the economic one in particular.

I have come to Israel at a time when everything on the world stage is changing. The world has responded to the challenge of global terrorism by the action of the antiterrorist coalition led by the United States of America. This coalition, to which both Israel and Croatia belong, is also being joined by countries, which opposed one another until yesterday.

The fight against global terrorism is neither a conflict of civilization, nor a clash of cultures, nor a war of religions. Terrorism has no ethnic or religious background. This is why the conflict we are witnessing, but also sharing, is simply a conflict between civilization and non- civilization.

I have no doubt whatsoever as to who will eventually emerge as the winner in the conflict, waged not only by military means. However, as we should clearly note, the conflict will take time and will also involve casualties on our side. But the stakes are too high and too important for keeping aloof. Our future in peace, security and freedom is at stake.

Let me conclude:

I have come to Israel in order to remove the liability of the past, which strained our relations.

I have come to present my country as it is, although we are far from being ideal.

I have come to lay the foundations for long-term, comprehensive cooperation to the benefit of both parties and to the detriment of none.

I have come to gain knowledge about Israel and to help Israel gain knowledge about Croatia.

I have come as a friend. Hence I conclude my address to you, elected representatives of the Jewish people in Israel, and to the representatives of the Israeli citizens of Arab origin, with the word which

I would like to be the future of Israel, of the Middle East and of the world.

Shalom!


 
 
 
   © Ured Predsjednika Republike Hrvatske 2003.