Jerusalem, September 18, 2003

FM Shalom meets with Dominican Republic President Hipolito Mejia
(Communicated by the Foreign Minister’s Bureau)

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom met today with Dominican Republic President Hipolito Mejia.

They discussed the full range of bilateral cooperation between Israel and the Dominican Republic, focusing on joint activity in the field of MASHAV, particularly in the agricultural arena.

"Israel and the Dominican Republic have enjoyed warm and very close relations for many years. Our relationship has reached new heights under the leadership of President Mejia, and we look forward to continuing this historic connection in the years to come," Foreign minister Shalom said.

Regarding the peace process, Shalom reiterated Israel’s firm commitment to ending the conflict through negotiations. He said that Israel seeks to return to a diplomatic process, but for this to be possible, the Palestinian leadership must first take the strategic decision to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism.

Shalom called on the international community to do everything in its power to help the Palestinians make this moral choice for peace.

In answer to a reporter’s question on Hizbullah, Foreign Minister Shalom said, "It seems that Hizbullah may have changed its policy and is seeking a prisoner exchange. We will examine the situation closely to determine if it is serious."

Answering a reporter regarding the status of Yasser Arafat, the Foreign Minister asked, "How many more years can this man deceive the world? He believes that he will destroy Israel through terror and thus refuses all compromises between the two parties. Neither side can afford to waste any more time on his deception."