(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met this morning (Monday), 22 November 2004, with US Secretary of State Colin Powell.  Following are Prime Minister Sharon’s remarks at the start of the meeting:

“We are pleased to welcome US Secretary of State Colin Powell, a great friend of Israel, a man who has greatly contributed towards raising US-Israeli relations to their current level, and who has worked hard to advance the peace process.  I hope that we will yet see your contributions in the future as well.

We know that Colin Powell has been involved in the main currents of bilateral relations in recent years.

I want to wish Secretary of State Colin Powell success in his future roles. We know that he will yet do much, given his concern for Middle East peace, a concern that is special in and of itself.  I want to wish you well and thank you for the deep cooperation and I am certain that the existing network of relations and solidarity will continue to improve, as will the advancement of peace in the Middle East.”

Prime Minister Sharon reminded US Secy. of State Powell that they first met 22 years ago at Shikmim farm, when the latter was then US Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger’s military aide.

Prime Minister Sharon said that Israel would advance and implement the Disengagement Plan.  In the meantime, Israel will do its utmost to ease conditions for the Palestinian Authority (PA) elections so that they might be held in an orderly fashion; the Prime Minister added that this depends mainly on the Palestinian leadership.

Prime Minister Sharon said that while he believes that Israel must enable the Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem to vote, as was done in the past, this will be discussed in the appropriate forums, and a decision will be made.

Regarding terrorism, Prime Minister Sharon said that while Israel understands that this is a complex matter, there could be no Israeli concession, either now or in the future, on the demand to halt terror and dismantle its infrastructures. “There were will be no compromises on this issue and it will be the Palestinians who will lose if they don’t act against terrorism.” The Prime Minister added that even now there has been no change in Palestinians’ attempts to perpetrate terrorist attacks in Israel.

Prime Minister Sharon thanked US Secy. of State Powell for his involvement in the processes over the past four years, especially his deep involvement in the Roadmap and US President George Bush’s letter following the Disengagement Plan.

US Secy. of State Powell thanked Prime Minister Sharon for his remarks. He said that the US has been very encouraged by Israel’s approach over the last few weeks, including the aid that it is prepared to extend regarding the holding of proper PA elections.

US Secy. of State Powell said that just as it has been over the past four years, US President Bush will not retreat from his aggressive stand vis-a-vis terrorism and added that it is clear that the main issue is the elimination of terrorism and incitement.

The two men discussed advancing the Disengagement Plan, the Roadmap and the Iranian, Syrian and Hizbullah issues.