Jerusalem, July 20, 2003

PM Ariel Sharon meets with PM Mahmoud Abbas
(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met today at his Jerusalem residence with his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, and Palestinian Ministers Muhammad Dahlan, Hisham Abd al-Razek, and Nabil Amr. The meeting lasted for approximately two hours and was conducted in a pleasant atmosphere.

Prime Minister Sharon opened by saying that he is pleased to be meeting with his Palestinian counterpart for the fourth time, and both leaders agreed that their joint meetings are one of the more important achievements of the peace process.

Prime Minister Sharon said that Israel is unable to ignore the fact that recently there has been a decrease in terror and incitement, and noted that the Palestinians are making an effort in this area. The Prime Minister added that it is also impossible to ignore the fact that that the terrorist organizations, with which the Palestinian Authority has reached agreements, are strengthening. The Prime Minister stressed that the terrorist organizations present a daily threat to the cease-fire agreement, and that the Israeli public feels that the agreement depends on the will of the terrorists.

Prime Minister Sharon asked his Palestinian counterpart to take immediate and definite action to dismantle the terrorist organizations and added that, once this has been done, Israel’s ability to answer the needs of the Palestinians will be significantly increased.

Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas discussed the issue of releasing prisoners. Prime Minister Sharon said that he plans to convene the committee on the prisoner release issue this Wednesday, 23.7.2003, and added that the list of prisoners to be released will be formulated soon. The Prime Minister said that, following his return from the US, the committee will be reconvened in order to reevaluate the criteria by which prisoners are to be released.

Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas agreed that Palestinian Minister for Prisoner Affairs Hisham Abd al-Razek will soon meet with Shin Bet Director Avi Dichter in order to discuss the manner and conditions by which the prisoners will be released.

Additional matters discussed included freedom of movement for Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, the separation fence, and the unauthorized outposts. It was agreed that Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz would immediately hold talks on the issue of IDF checkpoints and would pinpoint those that can be removed in order to ease travel for the Palestinian population. It was also agreed that the Defense Minister would meet with Minister Dahlan in order to discuss the possibility of transferring additional cities to Palestinian control in accordance with Prime Minister Sharon’s assurance that there will be no IDF presence in areas where the Palestinian Authority assumes responsibility.

Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas agreed they would meet again upon the Prime Minister’s return from the US.