(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met today (Thursday), 13 January 2005, in his Jerusalem office, with European Union High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy and Secretary-General of the EU Council Javier Solana, and EU Special Representative to the Peace Process Marc Otte. Attending for the Israeli side were Prime Minister Sharon’s Special Adviser Dov Weisglass, Prime Minister Sharon’s Diplomatic Adviser Shalom Turgeman, Prime Minister Sharon’s Military Secretary Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant, Prime Minister Sharon’s Foreign Media Adviser Ra’anan Gissin, Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General for Europe Ran Kuriel and Israeli Ambassador to the EU Oded Aran.

Prime Minister Sharon noted the EU’s contribution to the signing of the European Neighborhood Policy agreement between Israel and the EU.  The Prime Minister said that Israel wants to enhance its relationship with the EU and commended EU High Representative Solana’s role in advancing bilateral relations and the diplomatic process. The Prime Minister thanked EU High Representative Solana for assisting in Arafat’s funeral arrangements.

Prime Minister Sharon said that a new opportunity has now been created in which to advance the diplomatic process in the region.  The Prime Minister said that he is interested in resuming security coordination between Israel and the Palestinians on all levels and added that if the Palestinians take tangible steps to halt terrorism it would be possible to coordinate elements of the Disengagement Plan with them in order to assure that territory is delivered only to Palestinian Authority officials and that the evacuations are conducted quietly and not under fire.

Prime Minister Sharon emphasized that the Disengagement Plan has the potential of returning to the Roadmap but added that there would be no compromises and no concessions on the issues of security for Israel and its citizens and a halt to terrorism and incitement.  EU High Representative Solana commended the Prime Minister for sticking to the Disengagement Plan despite the difficulties that he has encountered; he noted that Europe is hopeful and truly desires to advance bilateral relations with Israel.

EU High Representative Solana said that during his visit to the region he has sensed a new air of hope, optimism and determination on the part of Abu Mazen to proceed towards negotiations, and Egypt’s willingness to assist the process.  For its part, Europe is ready to extend all necessary economic assistance and to assist the PA on police issues.

Various developments in the region – including Iraq, Iran, Syria and the danger of Hizbullah terrorism – were also discussed.