(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met this evening (Wednesday), 15 December 2004, with ruling French UMP Party President Nicolas Sarkozy.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud attended the meeting, as did Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Ilan Cohen and Prime Minister Sharon’s Diplomatic Adviser, Shalom Turgeman.

Prime Minister Sharon said that Mr. Sarkozy was a friend of Israel and added that he hoped that this visit would lead to closer bilateral ties between Israel and France.

Mr. Sarkozy said that, “We appreciate the personal courage that you have shown through out the process in these difficult days that your initiative has witnessed.  This is a great hope for peace and as a friend, I am pleased to participate in this happiness.”  He added that there can be no negotiations about Israel’s security.”

While Prime Minister Sharon emphasized that Israel aspires towards peace and is ready to make painful concessions for it, he made it clear that Israel will not countenance any pressure regarding its security and the security of its citizens.

Regarding Europe’s contribution to the process, Prime Minister Sharon made it clear that, “Europe can make it clear to the Palestinians and their supporters in the Arab states that as long as terrorism persists, there will be no possibility of progress in the negotiations.”  The Prime Minister added that Europe in general, and France in particular, can assist in the struggle against terrorism and in advancing peace by declaring organizations such as Hezbollah to be terrorist organizations and by preventing the transfer of funds to them from Europe.

Prime Minister Sharon thanked Mr. Sarkozy for his support and said that despite all the difficulties, he looks forward with the hope and optimism and is certain of his ability to move Israel forward both in implementing the Disengagement Plan and in realizing its national goals.