(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Office)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert this morning (Sunday 18 November 2007) met with French Foreign Minister Dr. Bernard Kouchner, who is visiting the region.  Most of the meeting was devoted to the expected international meeting in Annapolis and the subsequent 17 December 2007 Paris conference.

Prime Minister Olmert briefed French Foreign Minister Kouchner on the progress in the diplomatic process and made it clear that the Israeli and Palestinian sides intend, at Annapolis, to launch negotiations on a permanent agreement.  "Annapolis cannot be a failure because its very existence constitutes a success," the Prime Minister said, "We are talking about the launching of negotiations that have not been held for seven years, with dozens of countries attending and in front of the entire world.  The goal of the Annapolis meeting is to create international support for the bilateral process that will be between us and the Palestinians."

French Foreign Minister Kouchner, who intends to go to Annapolis, expressed his country’s satisfaction over the existence of the meeting, in regard to both the diplomatic developments around it and the directions in which the sides are making progress.  In December, France intends to host the Paris conference on raising funds for building an effective regime in the Palestinian Authority areas, under the aegis of Palestinian Authority President Abu Mazen and Prime Minister Salim Fayyad.  The Prime Minister promised that Israel would be represented at the Paris conference.

The men also discussed regional developments in general, including the expected elections in Lebanon, Syria and Iran’s efforts to equip itself with nuclear weapons.  Prime Minister Olmert emphasized that time for dealing with the issue is running out and added that Israel estimates that if all circumstances, regarding technological capabilities, including their attainment and implementation, work in Iran’s favor, it is likely that by the end of 2009, Iran will have all the components to assemble a nuclear bomb.  The two men agreed to continue bilateral cooperation on the issue.