Jerusalem, July 11, 2003

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom meets with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesman)

 FM Silvan Shalom meets with Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi-July 11- 2003

 FM Silvan Shalom meets with Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi-July 11- 2003

FM Silvan Shalom meets in Rome
with Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi
and Russian FM Igor Ivanov
(July 11, 2003)


In his meeting today with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told Foreign Minister Shalom that in his meetings with the 25 ambassadors representing the countries of the European Union, he discussed his vision that Israel would join the European Union. Despite the fact that Israel is located geographically on the other side of the Mediterranean, culturally and economically Israel is a Western European and democratic country.

The Italian Prime Minister further added that not one of the ambassadors at the meeting was opposed to this idea. In addition, Berlusconi stated that he is receiving Foreign Minister Shalom as the current President of the European Union, and it is his intention to advance the Marshall Plan, to expand it, in order to help revive the economies of Israel and the countries in the region, and especially the Palestinian economy. Berlusconi also suggested to convene a regional conference in Sicily.

Foreign Minister Shalom stated that the courageous decision of Berlusconi not to meet Arafat during his visit to Israel, led many Foreign Ministers to do the same. Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Shalom conveyed to Berlusconi a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, that he appreciates his position as President of the European Union, as a balanced once in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

In reference to the suggestion to convene a regional conference in Sicily, Foreign Minister Shalom said that indeed it is to be considered. Foreign Minister Shalom thanked the Italian Prime Minister for his efforts to include Hamas on the list of terrorist organizations: "We believe that in the time of your Presidency, European countries will become more balanced." Similarly, Foreign Minister Shalom brought up the danger of Iran’s nuclear armament, which constitutes a danger to global stability. As for the Marshall plan of Berlusconi, Foreign Minister Shalom stated that there is no doubt that this is another important element.