Statement by FM Silvan Shalom after meeting with Australian FM Alexander Downer

Jerusalem, January 26, 2004

I have just completed an excellent meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

Foreign Minister Downer is a dear friend of Israel and the Jewish people, and it is my great pleasure to welcome him to Israel.

The Foreign Minister comes to Jerusalem on a special day for his country – Australia Day – and I wish to take this opportunity on behalf of the government and people of Israel to extend publicly our warmest wishes to Foreign Minister Downer – and the Government and people of Australia – on this occasion.

Israel and Australia enjoy excellent bilateral relations. Our trade is flourishing, our political dialogue is deepening, and the bonds of friendship between our two peoples are growing ever stronger.

On the international stage, Australia has proven itself to be a staunch advocate of Israel’s right to live in peace and security, free from the threat of terror and weapons of mass destruction. Australia has been unwavering in its support for the war on international terror and it has taken concrete measures against various Palestinian terrorist organizations seeking support in Australia.

In our meeting today, I conveyed to the Foreign Minister Israel’s appreciation for Australia’s courageous and resolute action in this regard. Our two countries share the understanding that the freedoms we know and cherish must always be defended from those who seek to destroy them.

I also used this opportunity to update the Foreign Minister on the current situation regarding the Middle East peace process and broader regional issues. The US-led war in Iraq in which Australian troops played a significant role, has set the Middle East on a course of great change, the signs of which we are beginning to see on the diplomatic front as well as in other spheres.

It is up to the leaders of our region to make sure that this opportunity is not missed.

Mr. Downer and I discussed at length the need for full implementation of the Roadmap and for the Palestinian side to abandon terror and to return to the negotiating table. We also discussed how the international community can help this process, and I am pleased to report that we found much common ground, particularly regarding the need to prevent the abuse of the UN and other international forums for anti-Israel campaigns.

I look forward to working closely with Foreign Minister Downer in the weeks and months ahead to continue to enhance and enrich the great understanding and special ties between our two governments and our two peoples.