(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met this afternoon (Wednesday), 16 March 2005, with Romanian Prime Minister Calin Constantin Anton Popescu-Tariceanu, who arrived in Israel for the dedication of the new Yad Vashem museum.

At the start of the meeting, Prime Minister Sharon made the following remarks: “We are pleased to welcome the Romanian Prime Minister. Bilateral relations are very friendly. It must be recalled that Romania did not severe relations when the Communist bloc did and has maintained diplomatic relations with Israel since 1948. Israel and Israeli companies have considerable economic interests in Romania. I hope that the Prime Minister’ s visit will lead to the strengthening of not only commercial and economic relations, but overall bilateral relations as well.”

Prime Minister Sharon congratulated his Romanian counterpart on his appointment following his victory in last December’s elections. The Prime Minister expressed his appreciation of the friendly nature of bilateral relations over the years, especially during the tenure of the current government in Bucharest.

Prime Minister Sharon said that Israel appreciates the Romanian government’s efforts against anti-Semitism, as well as its decision to increase Holocaust education.

Prime Minister Sharon noted that there are approximately 450,000 Israelis of Romanian extraction. The Romanian Jewish community had reached a peak of 850,000 individuals; after World War II, approximately 400,000 were left. Approximately 300,000 Jews were murdered in Bessarabia and Bukovina, mainly by Marshal Antonescu’s Romanian army.  Approximately 150,000 Jews in northern Transylvania were murdered by the Hungarians and the Germans.

Prime Minister Sharon reviewed bilateral commercial ties and noted that there are approximately 160 joint projects, worth $200 million. The Prime Minister added that it was important that the Romanian government approve infrastructure projects forthwith.

Prime Minister Sharon raised the humanitarian issue of the adoption of children from Romania. He noted that today, there are 13 Israeli families that have begun adoption proceedings in Romania and that have finished almost all of the various bureaucratic procedures. The Israeli families are in considerable distress since they know the children.  He said that this was a genuine tragedy, adding that these 13 families must be helped. The Romanians promised to establish an international committee to check each adoption case on its merits.

On the diplomatic issue, Prime Minister Sharon said that Israel was a peace-seeking country that was ready to make painful concessions in exchange for a genuine peace. However, Israel will not compromise regarding the security of Israeli citizens and of the State of Israel.

Prime Minister Sharon briefed his guest on diplomatic developments since the Disengagement Plan and up to the present day and emphasized that while the Roadmap process has yet to be implemented, implementing the Disengagement Plan has the potential of leading the sides toward implementing the Roadmap.

Romanian Prime Minister Popescu-Tariceanu told the Prime Minister that he appreciates his determination and courage in implementing the Disengagement Plan, which is an important step forward. The Romanian Prime Minister said that his country was prepared to offer its assistance, as it did vis-a-vis the peace with Egypt.

Roman Prime Minister Popescu-Tariceanu added that the Holocaust is a shameful part of Romania’s history and said that steps were being taken in the education system to see to it that such a tragedy never recurs.