(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Spokesman)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met this morning (Monday), 20 December 2004, with Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda and briefed him on developments in the region and on the progress in implementing the disengagement plan.

The prime minister made it clear that, while Israel is prepared to make gestures in order to assure the proper holding of Palestinian Authority elections, it will not compromise on security issues.

Sharon made it clear that Israel will render all necessary assistance in order for proper elections to be held. He said that there are already approximately 200 European Union observers, led by former French prime minister Michel Rocard.

Sharon said that if terrorism continues ahead of the implementation of disengagement, Israel would respond harshly, much harsher than its current responses.

He said that 2005 will be a year of opportunity and added that he hopes the Palestinians will cooperate so as not to disappoint everyone.

Czech Foreign Minister Svoboda commended Prime Minister Sharon’s courage and his determination to move forward with the disengagement plan, and added that the Czech Republic and the entire EU are interested in advancing the plan and the Road Map. He said the Czech Republic’s position is that adhering to the stages of the Road Map is very important in order to facilitate reaching a genuine settlement.

Regarding the London conference, Svoboda said that UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw had made it clear to him that this is not a peace conference, but a conference that would consider how to assist the Palestinians in implementing reforms.

Sharon said that Israel has no opposition to holding a conference designed to encourage the Palestinians. “While we will not attend, we understand its importance. We do not see this as a diplomatic conference and this is what we have been told. There is an important opportunity here to resolve economic problems and deal with the issue of the reforms. Security issues may be discussed only with Israel,” Sharon said.

Svoboda said that his country intends to lead a campaign to have Hizbullah declared a terrorist organization and added that on this issue its position is the same as Israel’s.

The two men also discussed PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), Marwan Barghouti, Yasser Arafat, anti-Semitism, Hizullah, Iran, and the political situation in Israel.

The Czech foreign minister invited Prime Minister Sharon to visit the Czech Republic in 2005.