(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met this evening (Tuesday), 23 November 2004, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who arrived in Israel on a lightning visit following the recent Quartet meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh.

During the meeting, which was held in a good atmosphere, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov updated Prime Minister Sharon on the Sharm el-Sheikh discussions and said that US Secretary of State Colin Powell had briefed the Quartet members on his talks with Prime Minister Sharon yesterday and added that the Quartet members had praised Israel’s constructive approach.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said that the Quartet members, like Israel, would assist in the holding of orderly Palestinian Authority elections.

Prime Minister Sharon made it clear that Israel would continue to implement the Disengagement Plan and said that if the Palestinians fulfill their Roadmap commitments, it would be possible to coordinate with them: “We hope that the new Palestinian leadership will have the power and the will to act against terrorism, and if they do so, Israel would be able to make progress in the diplomatic process.”

Prime Minister Sharon added, “We will maintain a link with the Palestinians. We will help them as much as possible, but we will not compromise on the terrorism and security issue.  We helped them vis-a-vis Arafat, both before and after his death.  We will render such assistance as they may request, but they don’t want us to ‘hug’ them too closely.”

Prime Minister Sharon emphasized that a ceasefire is an internal Palestinian issue and Israel will not interfere in it.  However, the Prime Minister added that, “If there is quiet, we will respond with quiet.”

Prime Minister Sharon asked his guest to tell the Palestinians that, “Israel wants to advance the process but the necessary condition for this is quiet and a war on terrorism.”

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov thanked Prime Minister Sharon for inviting children who were wounded in the Beslan terrorist attack to have a holiday in Israel and for the warm reception they met with in Ashkelon.