Jerusalem, 17 December 2002

FM Netanyahu Addresses EU Ambassadors’ Conference
(Communicated by Foreign Ministry Spokesman)

Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met on Tuesday (December 17) in Jerusalem with the ambassadors of the European Union in Israel. The meeting was held prior to the Foreign Minister’s departure for Europe, where he will be visiting a number of European capitals.

Mr. Netanyahu discussed current political issues, stating that, in practice, there can be no progress in political talks with the Palestinians without far-reaching changes in the PA leadership. He further commented that the expected American offensive in Iraq may facilitate such changes.

The Foreign Minister characterized Syrian President Assad’s claim that there are no terrorist organization offices in Damascus, only "information offices," as disingenuous. Just recently, said Mr. Netanyahu, those offices issued directives to carry out heinous terrorist acts against innocent civilians in Israel and abroad.

Replying to a question regarding freedom of worship in Bethlehem during the approaching Christmas holiday, the Foreign Minister said that Israel will permit worshippers to visit the city, with the understanding that maintaining the security of civilians is the primary concern. As for Arafat, Mr. Netanyahu noted that, to the best of his knowledge, Mr. Arafat is not a believing Christian, and his demand to participate in the Christmas mass as an expression of solidarity and peace is particularly ironic considering the unceasing terror that Arafat is generating.

Foreign Minister Netanyahu also referred to the roadmap being drafted by the ministers of the Quartet. Israel, he stressed, will not accept any attempt by outside parties to dictate its policy, but will act in the best interests of Israel and its citizens.