Sunday, November 25, 2007

Liberian Government Signs Memorandum of Understanding with the Israeli Diamond Industry

Ganz, Johnson-Sirleaf, Avi Paz
Eli Dasa Enlarge
IDI Chairman Moti Ganz, President Johnson-Sirleaf and IDE President Avi Paz

In a festive ceremony, a memorandum of understanding was signed today, November 20, under the aegis of Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, by Israel Diamond Institute Chairman Moti Ganz and Liberia's Minister of Lands, Mines & Energy Dr. Eugene H. Shannon. The memorandum of understanding lays the foundations for strategic cooperation between the Liberian government and the Israeli Diamond Industry in the area of diamonds.

In addition to President Johnson-Sirleaf, the ceremony was attended by Liberia's Minister of Lands, Mines & Energy Dr. Eugene H. Shannon, Liberia's Defense Minister and other ministers, senior members of Israel's Diplomatic Corps, Chairman of the Israel Export Institute David Arzi, foreign ambassadors, senior representatives of the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Industry Trade and Labor, and leaders of the Israeli Diamond Industry.

Chairman of the Israel Diamond Institute (IDI), Moti Ganz, noted in his speech that the Israeli Diamond Industry attributes great importance to Africa in general and Liberia in particular. "Africa is a continent of opportunity. Current opportunities and future opportunities. Let us make sure not to miss this chance."

Ganz spoke of President Johnson-Sirleaf's vision and noted that "the president symbolizes a new spirit in Africa. She brings great hope to all of the countries in the region. She is a woman of vision who is determined to do her best for her country and her people."

"The future of Liberia's economy is embedded with diamonds," Ganz remarked. He expressed his conviction that a new page will soon open in Liberia's history. "The Israeli Diamond Industry believes in the new Liberia. If you wish it, it is no longer a dream."

"The memorandum of understanding is only the beginning of cooperation that will undoubtedly enrich both partners," declared Ganz.

In his introduction, the IDI's Managing Director Eli Avidar noted that President Johnson-Sirleaf is the first woman to be elected head of state in Africa in general and Liberia in particular. "The president has fought for democracy in her country and was even imprisoned. Later, she went into exile."

In 2005 she was elected President of Liberia and in November 2007 President George W. Bush awarded Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award given by the United States.

"Johnson-Sirleaf's credentials as a Harvard trained economist have strengthened her stature in the international community and the road has been paved towards the cancellation of Liberia's huge foreign debt as well as the rehabilitation of its economy," he noted.

President Johnson-Sirleaf thanked the participants for their activity on behalf of Liberia and noted that she is acting to strengthen the good relations between the two countries. She described the historical ties between Israel and Liberia and the many agreements signed between them in the past. She added that two former presidents of Liberia visited Israel and recalled the visit of former prime minister Golda Meir to Liberia. Recalling Golda Meir, she noted that female African leaders are following in her footsteps today.

Moti Ganz, President Johnson-Sirleaf, Minister Eugene Shannon
Eli Dasa Enlarge
IDI Chairman Moti Ganz and Liberian President Johnson-Sileaf shake hands as Minister Eugene Shannon looks on

The President noted the lifting of the sanctions imposed on Liberia's diamond industry and its reinstatement in the Kimberley Process. "Liberia has many natural resources. Until recently these mineral riches served to promote internal conflict in the country rather than go to my people's benefit. In fact, the minerals were described as a curse."

"Revenue from diamonds was exploited mainly for destruction and contention. Therefore, Liberia has a long way to go until it reaches its proper course. But I am pleased to say that despite the fact that we have dealt with such hardship, today Liberia has the opportunity to rehabilitate itself. We have renewed growth. We have succeeded in changing the poverty level. Our economic policy has reinstated the confidence of the international community. We will do everything in our power to rebuild our infrastructures, fight poverty and give our youth a good education."

The President spoke of the good relations that Liberia now has with neighboring nations and noted that "we are endeavoring to achieve regional cooperation that will enable us to broaden our markets beyond our borders."

"We are pleased that the sanctions on our diamond industry have been lifted due to recognition of our efforts. We will use our resources to establish a transparent system for governance of revenue from diamonds and other minerals," she added.

"Our country is on the right path," noted the President. "The challenges are great and our administration is aware of the long road ahead. We believe that with a committed government and with the help of those working alongside us, including the international community, Liberia has the opportunity to rebuild itself. Thank you for being a part of Liberia's future."

President Johnson-Sirleaf thanked the hosts of the festive event and expressed the hope that the ties in the area of diamonds between Liberia and the Israeli Diamond Industry will grow ever stronger.

Liberia's Minister of Lands, Mines & Energy Dr. Eugene H. Shannon and IDI Chairman Moti Ganz then signed the memorandum of understanding and the guests subsequently attended a luncheon in honor of the Liberian President.

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