(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met this afternoon (Thursday), 28 April 2005, with Russian President Vladimir Putin and made the following remarks at the start of the meeting:
“We are pleased to host Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is my fourth meeting with President Putin and I am happy that the meeting is being held in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people. I am certain that this meeting will deepen bilateral relations. I know that, last night, you visited several sites in Jerusalem and I am certain that on your next visit you will succeed in seeing many more. I am glad that you chose this date, so close to May 9, when the world marks the victory over Nazi Germany. The State of Israel and the Jewish people will never forget the sacrifices and deeds of the Russian people, who liberated the Jews from the extermination camps.
Today, we will discuss various issues and I am certain that the warm relations between Russia and Israel, and between myself and President Putin, will remain as such and will become even warmer. I want you to know that you are among friends here.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin replied: “Thank you very much for your kind words regarding both myself and my country. You referred to the period in which this meeting is being held, days that are very important to us because our peoples suffered more victims than any others.
All of our previous meetings were fruitful and made our current meeting possible. My visit is taking place during Passover and the Eastern Orthodox Pascha. I would like to wish the Jewish people well with all my heart; I wish joy for the entire Jewish family.”
Prime Minister Sharon welcomed Russian President Putin on his visit to Israel and said that Israel is greatly interested in advancing bilateral relations and enhancing them in all areas.
Russian President Putin told the Prime Minister that he was very much enjoying his visit to Israel, which he has been looking forward to for some time. The Russian President said that his previous meetings with the Prime Minister and the personal ties between them encouraged him to visit Israel at the present time and added that he was grateful to the Prime Minister for the opportunity to make the visit.
On the Palestinian issue, Prime Minister Sharon said that Israel was committed to the Roadmap and expressed the hope that the Palestinians would honor their commitments in order to pave the way to beginning diplomatic negotiations on the Roadmap. He added that an international conference would be held at the beginning of the second stage of the Roadmap and not before.
Russian President Putin said that Russia’s intention was to propose a professional meeting at the level of experts in order to advance the diplomatic process in the region; in any case, no kind of forum would be convened without Israel’s assent.
The two leaders discussed the continued implementation of the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings and the need to take such steps as would strengthen Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen.
Russian President Putin said that it would only be in coordination and agreement with Israel that Russia would assist the Palestinian security forces so that the latter might fight terrorism more efficiently.
Prime Minister Sharon reiterated Israel’s desire to coordinate various elements of the Disengagement Plan with the Palestinian Authority and said that he had charged Vice Premier Shimon Peres with the responsibility of raising funds in order to assist Palestinian economic recovery after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.
Prime Minister Sharon said that the Palestinians must fight against terrorist infrastructures and disband the terrorist organizations, which they have refrained from doing up until now. He added that Abu Mazen is trying to reach understandings with the terrorist organizations and integrate them into the political system without disbanding them, which contravenes the Roadmap.
Prime Minister Sharon emphasized that without the full implementation of the Palestinians’ commitments, there will be no diplomatic progress.
On the issue of supplying missiles to Syria, he [Prime Minister Sharon] said that Israel was concerned that new and sophisticated weapons were liable to come into the possession of terrorist organizations. He stressed the Syrian involvement in terrorism and said that the problem was not the sale of the weapons per se but to whom the weapons are sold.
Russian President Putin said that as long as he is President, Russia would do nothing to harm Israel. Regarding the sale of SA-18’s, he said that Russia was acting as responsibly as possible so as not to disturb the military balance in the region and so as not to create a threat against Israel. The Russian President said that the sale of these missiles does not threaten Israel and emphasized that they could not reach terrorist organizations, adding that Russia has taken all necessary steps to assure this.
On the Iranian issue, Prime Minister Sharon said that an Iranian military nuclear capability constitutes a tangible and existential danger not only to Israel but also to the Middle East, Europe and the rest of the world. He added that nuclear weapons in the hands of extremist elements constitutes a danger that must be prevented in any way possible.
Russian President Putin emphasized that a nuclear Iran frightens Russia as much as it frightens Israel and said that Russia would not help Iran achieve a nuclear bomb. He added that on the Iranian issue, Russia was Israel’s ally and called for cooperation in order to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
The two leaders agreed to continue the enhancement of bilateral ties between the two countries in the security, diplomatic and economic areas in order to increase the level of cooperation and understanding. They decided to establish a direct link between their respective bureaus in order to increase cooperation between the two leaders. They also discussed the Syrian, Iranian and Hezbollah issues, as well as Russia’s voting patterns at the UN and the advancement of various bilateral issues.
At the end of the meeting, Russian President Putin told Prime Minister Sharon that he very much appreciated his determined stand in the struggle against terrorism and his commitment to the security issue and said that the terrorist organizations must receive no concessions and must be shown no weakness. He stressed that Russia was Israel’s strategic ally and said that bilateral relations must be exhausted to their fullest and best potential.