(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon this afternoon (Wednesday), 7 September 2005, met with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos and made the following remarks at the start of their meeting: “We are pleased to host the Spanish Foreign Minister, who knows the region very well. I am certain that his visit will contribute to the strengthening of bilateral relations and I am sure that he will continue to contribute to the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians as he has in the past. I welcome him to Jerusalem.”

Spanish Foreign Minister Moratinos gave Prime Minister Sharon a letter from Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, in which the latter invited Prime Minister Sharon to visit Spain and attend the November meeting marking a decade of the Barcelona Process.

Prime Minister Sharon said that the Disengagement Plan was one of the most difficult and painful steps in the history of the State of Israel. He briefed his guest on the many difficulties that were involved in the implementation of the plan.

Spanish Foreign Minister Moratinos said that he remembers their previous meeting, in December 2004, in which Prime Minister Sharon said that he would implement the plan despite the difficulties and noted that he in fact did so.

Prime Minister Sharon said that the continuation of the diplomatic process depends on a halt to the terrorism, which has not yet happened. He updated his guest on recent terrorist attacks and said that they were making it very difficult to return to the Roadmap outline. The Prime Minister said that it seems that by next week there will no longer be an Israeli presence in the Gaza Strip, after the army leaves. The Prime Minister emphasized that should rocket, mortar or other attacks continue, Israel’s response would be very harsh.

Spanish Foreign Minister Moratinos updated the Prime Minister on his meeting with Abu Mazen in Gaza yesterday.

Prime Minister Sharon said that Israel opposes Hamas’ participation in the elections before it disarms and rescinds its charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel.

The two men discussed the crossings issue; the Spanish Foreign Minister said that his country would support the apparent arrangement.

The two men also discussed Iran, Lebanon and Syria. The Spanish Foreign Minister said that at the request of President Moshe Katsav, Spain was working for the return of the bones of Eli Cohen to Israel.