(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met this afternoon (Monday), 14 November 2005, with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. At the start of the meeting, Prime Minister Sharon said: “We are pleased to welcome the Ethiopian Prime Minister who has come to Israel to attend the events marking the 10th anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Bilateral relations are developing and I hope that they will continue to develop. Among the issues that I will raise today is the immigration of the last Ethiopian Jews to Israel. I hope that the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s visit will strengthen bilateral relations and lead to additional developments in them. Welcome.”
Ethiopian Prime Minister Zenawi replied: “I’m very pleased to be here in Israel for the second time, although the occasion is a sad occasion, the tenth anniversary commemoration of the sad days of Yitzhak Rabin, a very good friend of Ethiopia. I could not miss this opportunity to make my tribute for such a very good friend. Our relations with Israel are excellent. The issue of the Falashmura, I believe will be finally resolved with the support of the Government of Israel and the commitment of the Government of Ethiopia. Once again, I’m very pleased to be here with you.”
Prime Minister Sharon apologized to his guest that he has not responded to his invitation to visit Ethiopia due to scheduling problems and expressed his hope that he will succeed in visiting Addis Ababa next year. The Prime Minister said that the security, diplomatic and political situations in Israel are so complex that it seems that the only place where he will be able to relax is Ethiopia.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Zenawi re-extended the invitation and said that he has prepared a detailed itinerary that includes sites that Prime Minister Sharon has previously asked to visit.
The two men discussed the issue of the Falashmura and expressed the hope that the issue will be resolved soon, after an Israeli delegation returns from Ethiopia with positive agreements.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Zenawi discussed his friendship with the late Yitzhak Rabin and added that he had spoken with him one month before his assassination.
Prime Minister Sharon briefed his guest on the situation with the Palestinians; they also discussed the issues of Syria and Lebanon.
The two leaders also discussed agricultural issues; Prime Minister Sharon proposed that bilateral agricultural cooperation be tightened. Ethiopian Prime Minister Zenawi said that he has visited several farms in Israel and noted that Ethiopian students have been sent to study at Israeli universities in order to learn from Israeli expertise in the area.
Prime Minister Sharon asked his guest that Ethiopia change its UN voting record regarding Israel.