(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met this afternoon (Sunday), 6 March 2005, with Jordanian Foreign Minister Dr. Hani al-Mulki; the meeting lasted approximately two hours and was held in an amiable and friendly atmosphere.

At the beginning of the meeting, Prime Minister Sharon said: “We welcome the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Jordan. Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan have good and close relations. I am sure that the visit of the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Jordan will add to, and strengthen, the network of bilateral relations.

I have known the Jordanian Foreign Minister for several years. We worked together on issues related to the two countries when I served as foreign minister and, therefore, I am pleased to wish him a special welcome. I also welcome the new Jordanian ambassador and wish him success in his post.”

Jordanian Foreign Minister Al-Mulki thanked Prime Minister Sharon and said: “I am very pleased to be here with Prime Minister Sharon. As he recalled, we had the privilege of working together on a number of issues and we succeeded in bridging the gaps and making progress on every issue we dealt with. Today, as we resume relations between us in the most effective and efficient way possible between two states, I have arrived here with the message that we must continue on the path of peace. Nothing can bring security, prosperity or social welfare to all of us, except peace.  There has been a peace agreement between us for over 10 years. The peace treaty is a comprehensive treaty between the two peoples and includes not only diplomatic issues, but also economic, agricultural, tourism and transportation projects.

Today, the peace needs a push. I also had the privilege of attending the Sharm el-Sheikh conference, which opened a new era that we must exploit.Yesterday, I met with Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmud Abbas and he was very optimistic regarding the process. We hope that nothing will stop the process and that we will not witness terrorist attacks that are liable to hurt the peace. The peace must win, peace in its broadest sense. We have been saying for some time that we want peace for the coming generations. Today, we say that we want peace, first of all, for us. We want to ensure that the peace will win and that we will see prosperity in the coming year.”

Prime Minister Sharon said that a new opportunity has been created with the rise of Abu Mazen. There has been the start of Palestinian activity, mainly in the deployment of Palestinian forces, but there has not yet been effective action. “We will give Abu Mazen every opportunity but we must know where he is going. He must start to eliminate the terrorist organizations. Abu Mazen’s current activity assures the political and security strengthening of the organizations due to his intention of neither confronting them nor dismantling them.

Prime Minister Sharon said that political agreements with extremist Islamic organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad cannot bring about their disappearance. “These bodies will not give up on terrorist actions and therefore, the more that we move the process forward, under the aegis of a temporary quiet, the more we will be hostages to these same organizations, who will explode the process like they did in 2003. We are very much interested in reaching peace but this also depends on the other side.” The Prime Minister added that he is determined to implement the Disengagement Plan and would prefer to do so in coordination with the Palestinians. The Disengagement Plan is not part of the Roadmap but can pave the way to dealing with the Roadmap.

Regarding the Roadmap, Prime Minister Sharon said that it would be implemented only after the Palestinians will have dismantled the terrorist organizations and their infrastructures, and have implemented comprehensive reforms. “The Roadmap will be implemented according to its detailed stages, without shortcuts. There will be no dealing with the issues of the permanent settlement without the full and complete implementation of the first stage of the Roadmap. A cease-fire is a temporary solution that does not entail giving up the terrorism option, and to this we will not agree.”

Prime Minister Sharon expressed astonishment that the London conference did not sufficiently emphasize the need for the Palestinians to fight terrorism and dismantle its infrastructures, before any advancement in the process.

Prime Minister Sharon reiterated his invitation from the Sharm el-Sheikh summit for King Abdullah to visit Israel.  He also commended the new Jordanian Ambassador, Maarouf Bakhit, and said that he has come to a very interesting place.

Prime Minister Sharon expressed disappointment that there are still many circles in Jordan that boycott Israel and those who maintain contacts with it.  Professional associations still oppose any contact with Israel and this impedes the progress of bilateral relations.

Prime Minister Sharon stressed that Israel will not agree to the stationing of the Bader Brigade in the PA areas. This force is not trained for counter-terrorism. However, Israel would support Palestinian security forces officers training in Jordan, in order to adopt the models of the Jordanian security forces. Jordanian Foreign Minister Al-Mulki said that Jordan believed that Israel would be interested in the issue and if this is not the case, the matter is closed. The Prime Minister added that it is important that Jordan act against terrorist elements and against the transfer of funds from its territory to the Palestinian terrorist organizations. It would be important to increase cooperation in this area in particular and in the war on terrorism in general.

Prime Minister Sharon said that is important to take vigorous action to include Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organizations. “There can be no distinction between Hezbollah’s military and political wings; the organization constitutes the main danger to the stability of Abu Mazen’s regime. Hezbollah encourages terrorist actions and threatens the cease-fire that Abu Mazen is trying to arrange with the rejectionist Palestinian organizations, as we saw in the recent terrorist attack in Tel Aviv.”

Jordanian Foreign Minister Al-Mulki said that Abu Mazen is interested in carrying out all that he has committed himself to doing: “He is making every effort and we must assist him as much as possible in order to strengthen his capabilities.” In response to a question from the Jordanian Minister, Prime Minister Sharon said that he would meet with Abu Mazen soon. The Jordanian Minister added that it was very important that tangible steps be seen on the ground before the Algiers conference in approximately three weeks. In his words, this would strengthen Abu Mazen and the moderate leaders in the region.

On the Syrian issue, Prime Minister Sharon said that Syria, along with Iran and Hezbollah, constitutes the greatest threat to Abu Mazen’s regime: “Syria is under heavy pressure and they believe that a statement on negotiations with Israel will ease the pressure. But as long as Syria provides sanctuary for the heads of all the terrorist organizations so that they can dispatch terrorists to perpetrate attacks in Israel, we will not negotiate with it.”

Regarding recent developments in Lebanon, Prime Minister Sharon said, “We are monitoring what is happening in Lebanon and we hope that developments there will be positive. Perhaps we will open peace negotiations with another Arab country.”

Jordanian Foreign Minister Al-Mulki raised a series of bilateral issues that could be moved forward, such as reviving the bilateral committees, tourism cooperation (in this context, he asked that the warning on Israelis visiting Jordan be lifted), an Eilat-Aqaba airport, resuming the Eilat-Aqaba development committee, resuming the trilateral Israeli-Jordanian-US committee and the Red Sea-Dead Sea canal project. Prime Minister Sharon replied that these issues would be studied forthwith so that joint teams could be established to move them forward.

The two men also discussed the issues of Iran and Iraq.