Excerpts from Press Conference by Prime Minister Ehud Barak following his meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair

London, July 5, 2000

PM BARAK: I have just ended an hour-long conversation with Prime Minister Blair and Foreign Secretary Cook. We covered the Palestinian track and developments in the Middle East region, and the situation of the peace process which enters into its decisive phases in the next few weeks. I believe very strongly that it is important for us Israelis that world leaders – especially Prime Minister Blair who is a leading man in Europe, as well as President Chirac, who we are going to see this afternoon – will know and be aware and be acquainted with the nuances of our positions and our perception of the process as a whole.

Q: Did you discuss with Mr. Blair the possibility that the Palestinians may unilaterally declare a state, and also did you discuss with him the situation facing the Iranian Jews who have just been sentenced?

PM BARAK: I hope, of course, that everything will be decided in negotiation. I believe that it is the only way which is congruent with the spirit and letter of the agreements and this is our position. Everything should be decided around the negotiating table. But of course I made it clear – I repeated what I have said in Israel more than once – that if unilateral steps will be taken by one, we will have to respond with our own unilateral steps.

Q: And on the Iranian Jews?

PM BARAK: I believe that all free world governments are joining us in condemning the results of this trial, and I believe that all world leaders will do their utmost to bring about the release of these prisoners.

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Q: Do you expect any compromises from Syria?

PM BARAK: We talked, of course, also about the Syrian track and our shared impressions of what is going on there. There is, of course, a change of power in Syria, it is a Syrian internal affair. We are in no position to express our opinion, but it seems to have developed in a stable way, and we would be open – we have said repeatedly: we did not close the door, we are not going to close it. We are open to make a peace agreement with Syria based on the legitimate interests and needs of both sides.

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