(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday evening (Monday), June 21, 2004, spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and congratulated him on last week’s Russian national holiday.  Prime Minister Sharon updated Russian President Putin on the details of the disengagement plan and the steps that Israel is taking to implement it.  Prime Minister Sharon said that Yasser Arafat is an obstacle to peace and added that any contact with him works against the possibility of reaching a regional settlement.

Russian President Putin noted that the disengagement plan had won wide support and added that this found expression in the recent G-8 statement.  Russian President Putin said that Russia was prepared to contribute in order to advance the process and added that to this end, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would soon visit the region.

Prime Minister Sharon invited Russian President Putin to visit Israel; the latter said that he would be pleased to do so in the near future.