(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met this morning (Thursday, 27 October) with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
At the start of the meeting, Prime Minister Sharon said: “I welcome the Russian Foreign Minister. Yesterday, we witnessed a severe act of terrorism in Hadera. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is not taking any serious steps in – and is not serious about – the struggle against terrorism. Therefore, we decided and agreed that we will conduct the struggle against terrorism in all its aspects. We are not prepared in any way to countenance continued terrorism; therefore, our activity will be wide-ranging and continuous until we have brought about the cessation of terrorism. The State of Israel very much wants to advance the peace process but due to the PA’s total failure on the issue of the struggle against terrorism we will – regrettably, as long as terrorism continues – be unable to move forward as we would have liked. This is our position and this is how we will act.”
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said: “We strongly condemn yesterday’s act of terrorism. We are Israel’s ally against terrorism. Yesterday, we held talks with Abu Mazen [PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas], who has also condemned acts of despicable terrorism and expressed his position regarding the continuation of the struggle against terrorism. He is ready for concrete steps and we believe that he must continue to be supported in every way possible, politically and materially. This is not an easy process and we must continue it.” The Russian foreign minister said that he is convinced that Abu Mazen is serious in his intentions to take action and that he is waiting for his security forces to strengthen.
Prime Minister Sharon told his guest that we heard the Iranian president’s very grave remarks yesterday, adding, “I have still not seen Russia’s reaction.” Minister Lavrov said that he had conveyed Russia’s protest this morning. In Moscow, the Iranian ambassador had been summoned to give an explanation; in Tehran, the Russian ambassador had delivered a demarche. He said that the Iranian president’s remarks were grave and added that Russia found them unacceptable.
The prime minister said that a country which called for the destruction of another cannot be a member of the UN: “Such a country, in possession of nuclear weapons, is a danger not only to Israel and the Middle East but to Europe as well.” The Russian minister said that on the Iranian issue, he agrees completely and said that the Iranian president’s remarks put a new light on Iran’s attempts to arm itself with nuclear weapons.
Prime Minister Sharon said that while Israel ascribes great importance to advancing the process according to the Roadmap, recent terrorist actions, including yesterday’s in the Hadera market and the continuing Kassam rocket fire, along with the ineffectualness shown by the PA, underscore the need to defeat terrorism before any progress in the diplomatic process: “The Palestinians are not taking any tangible steps to either fight terrorism or dismantle its infrastructures; therefore, we are unable to move forward. If the PA does not take serious and tangible action against terrorism, there will be no diplomatic progress and that would be a pity. In such a situation, I will not meet with Abu Mazen and the Palestinians are losing all of their national dreams due to this situation. We are not happy to take military action but we cannot countenance a situation of terrorism. We are not satisfied that Abu Mazen has condemned – this does not help us.” The prime minister added that when Russian President Vladimir Putin visited here, he asked to dispatch two experts to inquire into the Palestinians’ non-weapons needs: “I agreed and they are active here. When they finish their work and present their conclusions, we will consider their recommendations.”
Prime Minister Sharon said that the orders for the latest terrorist attacks had come from Damascus. Foreign Minister Lavrov replied that Russia would demand that Syria honor President Bashar Assad’s promise to President Putin – to remove the terrorism command centers from its territory.
Lavrov said that many people in the world did not believe that Prime Minister Sharon would succeed in carrying out the Disengagement Plan and noted that Russian President Putin had told them all that Prime Minister Sharon would succeed.
On behalf of Russian President Putin, Foreign Minister Lavrov invited Prime Minister Sharon to visit Russia.