(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met this morning (Wednesday), 19 January 2005, with Luxembourg Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Jean Asselborn. Luxembourg is currently serving as the European Union’s rotating president (as of 1 January 2005).

Prime Minister Sharon said that while the death of Arafat has brought an opportunity to the region, in this region only actions determine things and if no action is taken the opportunity will be lost: “To our regret, since the election of Abu Mazen, we have witnessed an upsurge in terrorism against Israel, mainly in the Gaza Strip. The peak was the terrorist attack that took place last Thursday at Karni Crossing. Only recently did the Palestinians request that we extend the hours of operation at the crossing and the result was more terrorism. We are also witnessing the unceasing firing of Kassam rockets and mortar shells at Jewish communities.”

Prime Minister Sharon said that Israel is not prepared to absorb losses due to the absence of cooperation on Abu Mazen’s part: “Israel is prepared to render assistance on condition that this does not harm the security of its citizens.  Israel cannot be expected to ease up on the Palestinian Authority (PA) when its citizens are being killed.

Israel is prepared to cooperate with the Palestinians on condition that there is no terrorism. Abu Mazen must carry out tangible steps against terrorism. I know that he is in Gaza; I don’t know what he’ll accomplish there. If the Palestinians take the right steps, we will be able to cooperate and coordinate on certain matters regarding the Disengagement Plan.”

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Asselborn told Prime Minister Sharon that he is due to attend the event at the United Nations to mark 60 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Asselborn sharply condemned the recent terrorist attacks and promised that during his visit to Gaza tomorrow he would make it clear to the Palestinian leadership that the EU views events there very sharply.

The two men discussed the issue of European assistance in rehabilitating the Palestinian economy.  Prime Minister Sharon said that the EU must take a more balanced position regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He added that it would be preferable to build projects and not transfer funds directly.

The two men also discussed Hizbullah, Syria and Iran. Prime Minister Sharon said that it is important that the EU – during the Luxemburg presidency – include Hizbullah on its list of terrorist organizations and press the various countries to finish their internal processes in order to freeze the funds reaching Hamas from Europe.

Prime Minister Sharon added: “The international community must step up its activity against the terrorist organizations, including applying pressure on Syria and Iran to stop encouraging terrorism.  It is important to neutralize Hezbollah’s influence on the Palestinian terrorist organizations, declare Hizbullah a terrorist organization in Europe as well and ‘deal with’ the sources of terrorist financing reaching the terrorist organizations.”