|Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.— VNA/VNS Photo|
HÀ NỘI – Việt Nam and Israel should work together in the spirit of creativity and innovation to strengthen bilateral economic co-operation, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin told the Vietnam News Agency in the run up to his March 19-25 official visit to the country.
How do you evaluate the relationship between Israel and Việt Nam over the years?
Israel and Viet Nam share a rich and prosperous friendship. This is a friendship between our governments, and between the two peoples. We have rapidly growing co-operation and are celebrating nearly a quarter of a century of diplomatic relations, but of course, Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, met with Hồ Chi Minh in Paris in 1946, and the friendship they established that day serves as the foundation for our close ties and strong relationship to this day.
Historically, thousands of years ago our peoples established their sovereign nations. We are countries which have many holy and spiritual sites, which are important to our identities and history. We share an appreciation for their preservation and reverence throughout the ages. Indeed, both countries have had similar experiences, having to fight against great powers for independence. We both share a deep appreciation for our freedom and right to self-determination.
Economically, Israel respects Việt Nam’s development and fast growing economy. Indeed your achievements are admirable, and we look at you through the eyes of our own economy which has developed a strong hi-tech and innovation industry, leading to our being known as the Start-Up Nation.
Israel is proud to welcome many hundreds of Vietnamese students through our MASHAV international development program each year, and Viet Nam and Israel have become important partners. Israel is one of Việt Nam’s major partners in the Middle East with a bilateral trade volume of US$2.3 billion in 2015. And, of course, we are currently negotiating a Free Trade Agreement, which I hope will be concluded soon. This agreement will form a stronger foundation for our mutual trade and business exchange.
We have so much potential to co-operate in so many fields. Indeed, ‘potential’ is probably the best word to describe our relations. Yes, our co-operation has been most fruitful, but we have to understand – and utilise – the great potential which lies before us.
What should both countries do to further enhance diplomatic relationship and bilateral economic co-operation in the near future?
Vietnamese, like Israelis, have the same dynamic entrepreneurial spirit. So first and foremost, let us work together and co-operate in that spirit of innovation and creativity. For Israel, this was born out of a lack of natural resources. We had to think ‘outside the box’ to address some of the most pressing daily concerns. Accordingly, we have developed much technology and know-how in the area of irrigation and water conservation – perhaps the most precious of all resources. We work to purify more and more grey water, we work on advancing desalination, and we work to produce water even from thin air. Viet Nam has more water and a lot more land than Israel, but you have a lot more people to feed, and we know you are looking for ways to grow more food on your land, and for ways to supply clean water to your country. This is a crucial area for our ongoing co-operation, as it will benefit both peoples, and indeed many others around the world.
In addition, our commercial partnership today includes a growing variety of industries and knowledge sharing. This includes, of course, defence and cyber industries crucial for keeping our peoples safe; medical devices and cooperation crucial for our peoples’ well-being; and education to continue our great legacies and achievements.
Indeed, through co-operation in agriculture utilising Israeli technology to improve Vietnamese production, we can ensure food security for millions of people around the world. If we co-operate in communications and technology, we connect people to build greater understanding and support research and development. Through our co-operation, we can truly face global challenges.
We are ready to do this together. During my visit I am honored to bring with me a delegation of more than 50 Israeli business leaders, and will be addressing two economic seminars on expanding our cooperation.
This is the opportunity that we have, and in the future I would like to see more mutual trade and co-operation.
What are the key topics that will be discussed and what are your expectations for the visit?
My visit comes at a time when relations between both countries are bearing fruit and greater accomplishments can be made. During my visit I will meet with President Trần Đại Quang, with the General Secretary of the Communist Party, Nguyễn Phú Trọng, and with Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc. We have much to discuss about how we can strengthen our ties, and work together to not only improve the lives of our peoples, but work to address challenges to the whole world, including security, sustainability, and innovation.
What is your assessment of the national defence cooperation between Israel and Việt Nam over the years?
We all know peace and security cannot be taken for granted. To enjoy economic, social, cultural, and educational prosperity, we must be vigilant to ensure security. Defence has a role in peace as it does during times of war. In the 21st century, it is clear to everyone that security is a very broad term. It includes homeland security, freedom from violence, protection against cyber-attacks, and the ability to communicate in any condition and in any weather. So security co-operation can incorporate all these different fields. Israel aspires to expand our security co-operation with other countries. Over the last years, much has already been achieved in our co-operation, and we have exchanged military attachés as part of our growing diplomatic relations. We are ready and willing to deepen this co-operation, and share further our best practices and experience in defending our people." — VNS