(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met today (Wednesday), 9 November 2005, with Serbian President Boris Tadic and made the following remarks at the start of the meeting: “I welcome the Serbian President.  While this is not his first visit to Israel, it is his first visit as President of Serbia.” Relations between Israel and Serbia are friendly and I hope that this visit, which we welcome, will lead to their enhancement in all areas. I am certain that this will be the case.”

Serbian President Tadic replied: “I am happy to be here with the Prime Minister. This is not my first visit here, as the Prime Minister has noted. We are trying to develop relations and do more for the peoples of both countries. We have great potential in terms of cooperation and economics, Following the democratic changes in Serbia in December 2000, we have many business ties with Israelis in our country. At the same time, we also have historic relations. We have suffered much over the years and we are trying to find historic solutions to our problems.”

Prime Minister Sharon expressed the hope that bilateral trade would increase and that Israeli investments in Serbia, which currently stand at approximately $300 million, will likewise increase, adding that this also depends on the Serbian bureaucracy.

Prime Minister Sharon said that Israel took a very difficult step – disengagement – and that it intends to advance towards peace. He noted that the route to peace was the Roadmap and that, to this end, there must be a complete cessation of terrorism: “It would be possible to advance the process but terrorism is continuing. I hope that the Palestinians will understand that in order to advance toward their national dreams, they must carry out tangible steps against terrorism. As long as terrorism continues, Israel will continue to act against it and will not rest until there is a complete cessation of terrorism, the terrorist organizations are disarmed and until the implementation of comprehensive security reforms.”

Serbian President Tadic said that bilateral relations were very important to him: “Even though the Serbian Jewish community is not large, I met with its leaders every month because this is very important.” He said that there was a similarity between the Israeli-Palestinian problem and the Serbs’ problem with Kosovo. The Serbian President detailed this problematic issue and ideas for compromise. He said that he admires Prime Minister Sharon’s courage and said that the latter had a very important place in the history of the Middle East.

Prime Minister Sharon thanked Serbian President Tadic for the sharp condemnation that he issued of the Iranian President’s recent statement. The Serbian President said that his Iranian counterpart’s remarks were very dangerous, especially if Iran has the technology to make good on them. He added that Serbia understands and supports Israel’s position on this issue.

The two leaders also discussed bilateral security issues, as well as the Syrian and Lebanese issues.

Serbian President Tadic invited Prime Minister Sharon to visit Serbia.