Israel welcomes Russia’s constructive involvement in the effort to promote peace in our region, under conditions which will make it possible to return to direct negotiations.

Statement by
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom
after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Jerusalem, 23 November 2004

It is a great pleasure once again to host my friend and colleague, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, here in Jerusalem.

Israel welcomes Russia’s constructive involvement in the effort to promote peace in our region, under conditions which will make it possible to return to direct negotiations.

The Foreign Minister has come here at a time of great hope and opportunity for the Middle East, and the entire international community. The passing of Yasser Arafat – just like the progress towards elections in Iraq – represents an opportunity for real and positive change in our region, change towards greater democracy, freedom and security for all. All sides must take this opportunity.

The first priority is the Palestinian elections, which will hopefully bring about a Palestinian leadership with whom we can sit down and address all the issues on our agenda. These elections are an internal Palestinian matter. But as I have stated before, Israel will do everything in its power to facilitate their smooth running.

Once a new leadership is elected – and if it acts to end terrorism and incitement – then we will be able to resume dialogue and coordination, with a view to getting back to  direct negotiations, as stipulated in the Roadmap.

But as I told Foreign Minister Lavrov in our meeting, there can be no shortcuts in this process. The Palestinians must fulfill their obligation in the First Phase of the Roadmap to fight terror. The only chance for the success of any future talks between Israel and the Palestinians, is if the terrorist option is removed from the equation.

Our discussion today also covered other issues of mutual concern, including the global war on terror, Syria and Iran. Israel commends Russia’s determined leadership in the global war on terror. We support Russia’s efforts at the UN to mobilize international consensus and action against terrorism, and our two countries shall continue our efforts to enhance our cooperation in this field.

In this context I raised with my colleague the issue of Hizbullah. Hizbullah, under the guidance of Iran and Syria, has replaced Yasser Arafat as the key driving force behind Palestinian terrorism and the desire to undermine any possibility of peace in this region. Israel looks to Russia to act as one with the US and other concerned states, to address this threat. The war on terror

Finally, as regards Iran, I reiterated to my colleague, Israel’s deep concern over Iran’s ongoing nuclear program, and its efforts to develop long-range missiles, which could strike not only at Israel but also at southern Russia. A nuclear Iran would pose a threat to Russia, Israel and the whole world. It is imperative that the international community remain vigilant and determined in its efforts to prevent this development.

Once again, it is a pleasure to welcome my colleague here to Jerusalem.