Diplomats from Russia, Israel and Mexico talk about building bridges despite political climate

Wednesday, April 05, 2017 07:16PM
The Consuls General from Russia, Israel and Mexico, all based in San Francisco sat down with ABC7 News to discuss ways to build bridges in these tense political times.

SAN FRANCISCO - The Consuls General from Russia, Israel and Mexico, all based in San Francisco sat down with ABC7 News to discuss ways to build bridges in these tense political times.

"Last year we issued 20,000 visas to Americans in this part of the United States," said Sergey Petrov, the Consul General of the Russian Federation in San Francisco.

He and the other consuls general are professional diplomats whose duties include overseeing the processing of legal documents, such as passports at their consulates, here and around the world.

"We should bring together our businesses, our artists, our actors, our scientists, our students," said Petrov.

But right now is a challenging time for diplomats.

The U.S. Justice Department recently indicted two Russian intelligence agents and two hackers, accused of stealing private information from millions of Americans after hacking into Yahoo accounts.

"It would be pure speculation. These people are innocent people now, they're innocent now until proven guilty in the court of law," said Petrov.

Also, some consulate employees were among three dozen Russians nationwide who were suddenly expelled at the end of 2016.

The Obama Administration said it was in retaliation for Russian efforts to interfere with the U.S. Presidential election, through cyber-attacks.

"It's not the policy of Russia, to meddle with the affairs of any country," said Petrov.

Since January, more than 100 Jewish community centers and schools have been targeted with bomb threats, including some right here in the Bay Area.

The Honorable Dr. Andy David is Consul General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest, based in San Francisco. He offers this advice.

"It's okay to be mad, it's okay to be angry, it's okay to be sad, but then, if you want to do something about it, if you want to be constructive, then you need to look beyond your anger, and try to use that anger, and channel it into a positive direction," said David.

He says there are different ways to build bridges of understanding.

"For people to do cultural events together, business, international trade, education, there are so many areas on which we can collaborate," said David.

A key area of conflict continues between Israel and the Palestinian authority and the debate over statehood for Palestinians.

President Trump has already met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is also invited to the White House.

"I'm very hopeful. This is what I'm looking for, to having leadership that will pursue peace, will pursue understanding and people who will support them," said David.

The Honorable Gemi Jose Gonzalez-Lopez is Consul General of the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco.

"I think we should be working to have the most creative, important, innovative border in the world. And not the wall, no," said Gonzalez-Lopez.

"It would be a region of economic growth, a region where human rights can be respected. A region where everyone can feel safe," added Gonzalez-Lopez.

He believes now is the time to build bridges, not walls.

"This is a moment where we have an opportunity to show that together, we're better, that together we have more competitive, more creativity," said Gonzalez-Lopez.

"We should build bridges and cross these bridges, go and visit and do things together across those bridges," said Petrov.

To hear more from the professional diplomats, just watch the upcoming Beyond the Headlines show, Sunday, at 4:30 p.m. on ABC7 News.
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