FM Sharon Meets with Russian Prime Minister

(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesman)
22 January 1999

Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon met yesterday (Thursday) 21.1.99, with Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov. In the meeting, which lasted for an hour, the two discussed bilateral issues, the issue of antisemitism, economic matters, regional-strategic issues, the peace process and Russias’ role in the region, as well as the issues worrying Israel — Russian aid in the non-conventional arming of Iran and Iraq.

In talks held in a good atmosphere, Foreign Minister Sharon explained in detail Israel’s concern at the aid being given by the Russian government to the Iranian nuclear programme, the channelling of Russian aid and technology to both Iran and Iraq in the development of long-range ballistic missiles, and the issue of the development of other weapons of mass destruction — such as chemical and biological weapons.

In the area of emerging threats in the Middle East, FM Sharon spoke of Islamic extremist terror as a strategic threat likely to harm Russia and demanding international and regional cooperation. The two sides reached considerable understanding on this issue. "Despite differing views on how best to tackle these problems, and on the interests of Russia in the Middle East, both sides have great interest in widening cooperation and reaching a new balance the relationship between Israel, Russia and the Arab states, which will be essentially different from the relationship prevailing in the past. I have found that this is also a real Russian interest," FM Sharon stressed. On this note, FM Sharon and Prime Minister Primakov agreed on the continuation of contacts, including the personal channel, in an effort to reach solutions to existing problems.

On the question of antisemitism in Russia, FM Sharon took a firm stance, in keeping with his personal interest in Jewish issues, and his position as the representative of the Jewish State, which is responsible for the safety of Jews throughout the world. In addition, he stressed that the spread of this phenomenon is likely to damage Russia in the eyes of the international economic community. Prime Minister Primakov announced that the Russian government will make every effort to fight all manifestations of antisemitism, and that its policy is unambiguous in this regard.

In the discussion on bilateral economic issues, great common interest emerged in deepening cooperation in the development of projects in third countries. FM Sharon stressed that "The intention of the government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, and my intention, is to reach a new, different relationship with Russia, but not at the expense of the security of Israel and this was made very clear in all my meetings."