(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met this afternoon (Monday), 6 September 2004, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and welcomed him on his first visit to Israel as Russian Foreign Minister and on his first visit to Israel in four years.

Prime Minister Sharon expressed his shock over the wave of terrorism which has struck Russia in the past two weeks and expressed his deep sorrow over the hundreds of victims who were killed as a result of these deplorable terrorist acts.

Prime Minister Sharon said that the Israeli people understand better than any other what Russia is going through in these difficult times: “Israel knows too well the scenes of security forces and medical personnel carrying wounded people and victims of all ages on their shoulders.”

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov thanked Prime Minister Sharon both for his remarks and for various Israeli officials’ words of support for Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian people.

The two men agreed to enhance bilateral intelligence, operational and humanitarian coordination and cooperation.  Prime Minister Sharon said, “Only a unified and assertive international front can defeat terrorism. Terrorism is terrorism and there can be no compromise either with those who perpetrate terrorism or with those who sponsor it.”

Prime Minister Sharon presented Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov a chart which showed that if one compares the number of Israelis killed since the start of the intifada in proportion to the population of the two countries, Russia would have lost 23,901 killed and over 160,000 wounded.

Prime Minister Sharon said that while the implementation of the disengagement plan will gradually lead to the creation of conditions which will enable the future resumption of the regional peace process, in accordance with the Roadmap, this can only be done once the Palestinians have carried out their commitments in the first stage of the Roadmap.  To this end, the Palestinians must bring about the establishment of a new and different leadership that will be committed to fighting terrorism, enacting political, social and economic reforms, and which will be interested in advancing a permanent settlement that will put an end to the conflict.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said that Russia appreciates Israel’s courageous step and added that Russia is interested in helping to implement the plan.  He stressed that the Quartet supports disengagement and added that the Palestinians must fulfill their commitments according to the Roadmap.

The two men discussed Arafat’s and Egypt’s respective roles in the process, as well as the Iranian and Syrian issues.

Prime Minister Sharon noted that the Jewish community in Russia has flourished since the breakup of the former USSR and commended Russian President Putin’s ties with the Jewish community.