(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met this afternoon (Thursday), 8 September 2005, with French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy who arrived in Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) on his first visit as Foreign Minister. At the start of the meeting, the Prime Minister said: “We are pleased to host the French Foreign Minister. I am certain that his visit will further strengthen the growing and developing network of bilateral relations. I want to wish him and the honored guests who came with him a pleasant visit.”

French Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy thanked Prime Minister Sharon and said: “We fondly remember your recent visit to Paris, which was defined as a success. I want to express, in your presence, the friendship of the French people. Yesterday, I was in the PA. Today, I have arrived in Israel and I express my sincerest wishes for peace here. We saluted your brave decisions and the recent withdrawal from Gaza. What you told us in Paris you have done. I bring a letter from French President Jacques Chirac that was written and signed 48 hours ago.”

Prime Minister Sharon asked French Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy to convey his best wishes for French President Chirac’s recovery and added that he would be happy to meet with him soon.

Prime Minister Sharon said that Israel implemented the Disengagement Plan as it had promised and added that it was now the PA’s responsibility to fight terrorism and carry out comprehensive reforms in order to proceed toward the implementation of the Roadmap.

Prime Minister Sharon noted that Israel opposes the participation of Hamas, which is a murderous terrorist organization, in the elections for the PA Legislative Council before the organization disarms and rescinds its charter, which calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.

Prime Minister Sharon expressed Israel’s desire to enhance bilateral relations and said that the joint fund must become more active and invested with vital content.

French Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy said that Prime Minister Sharon’s visit to France had been a great success in the eyes of all sections of French society and added that there was great appreciation for Israel in France. He said that Europe was prepared to contribute to promoting the processes in the PA in a variety of areas and added that the European Union will be ready to assist in third-party supervision at the crossings.

Prime Minister Sharon said that Israel is interested in giving up responsibility for what is done in Gaza and called on France and the international community to assist in developing Gaza via accelerated construction for refugees and building infrastructures, including a port. Regarding the crossings between the PA and Egypt, the Prime Minister said that Israel has accepted the Egyptian proposal to transfer the crossing point for people and goods from Rafiah to Kerem Shalom for six months and to then return the crossing point for people to Rafiah.  The Prime Minister said that assistance by international elements might then be possible.  He added that this was the only possibility that could prevent a breach of the customs envelope and harm to the Palestinian economy.

French Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy gave Prime Minister Sharon a letter from French President Jacques Chirac in which the latter pledged to continue the fruitful bilateral dialogue. French President Chirac also expressed his great appreciation for the implementation of the Disengagement Plan as well as for Prime Minister Sharon’s political daring and determination.