Jerusalem, 12 February 1997

DM MORDECHAI MEETS WITH FRENCH DM MILLON

(Communicated by Defense Minister’s Media Coordinator)

Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai held a working meeting this morning

(Wednesday), 12.2.97, at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, with French Defense Minister Charles Millon. Minister Millon was received with full ceremony by Defense Minister Mordechai, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Amnon Lipkin-Shahak and Defense Ministry Director General Ilan Biran.

During their working meeting, Defense Minister Mordechai briefed his guest on Israeli policy regarding progress in the peace process, the Middle East situation and the threats facing Israel. He emphasized that the Israeli government wants to make progress in the peace process while making certain that its security is not harmed. He stressed the dangers posed by the development of non-conventional weapons by Iran and Iraq, adding that should such weapons actually be developed, they would "endanger the stability of the entire region." Defense Minister Mordechai defined terrorism as "the cancer of the current century, whose roots are in the Middle East." Regarding the situation in Lebanon, he said that "the security zone, its residents and the South Lebanon Army can serve as a bridge to peace between us and Lebanon. Lebanon could be the starter which could get the political process with Syria and Lebanon moving, but it could also be a great minefield which could harm the entire process." He added that "if Israeli citizens and soldiers continue to be injured, we are liable to reach an escalation which would take us backwards, not forwards." He stressed the importance of cooperation between the Israeli and French defense establishments, and said that they should be expanded and strengthened.

Mr. Millon expressed both his personal condolences, as well as those of his government and the French people, regarding the recent helicopter disaster. He emphasized his government’s interest in finding a political solution which would enable Israel to enjoy security, in the framework of a settlement between Israel and Lebanon. He expressed his desire to strengthen and foster cooperation between the French and Israeli defense establishments.