(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met this evening (Wednesday), 16 March 2005, with Swiss President Samuel Schmid, who arrived in Israel for the dedication of the new Yad Vashem museum.

At the start of the meeting, the Prime Minister said: “We are pleased to welcome the Swiss President to Israel. We have very long relations with Switzerland.  We hope that the visit will contribute to relations and cooperation; we are greatly interested in this. I welcome the Swiss President to Jerusalem,  the capital of Israel for 3,007 years and the united and indivisible capital of the State of Israel.”

Swiss President Schmid replied: “I thank the Prime Minister for the reception. We have a long tradition of cooperation.”

Prime Minister Sharon expressed his appreciation of the Swiss government’s actions against anti-Semitism and racism.

Prime Minister Sharon expressed his disappointment over the Swiss government ’s 2002 decision to reduce the volume of security relations with Israel, relations which had been close since the 1950’s. The Prime Minister said that it was important for the Swiss government to make a positive decision regarding the resumption of security ties.

Prime Minister Sharon expressed satisfaction over the volume of bilateral trade, which currently stands at over $2 billion (including diamonds). However, the ratio was 7:1 against Israel and ways must be found to reduce the imbalance. The Prime Minister emphasized that a change in the Swiss government’s decision on the security issue would contribute to this.

Prime Minister Sharon said that was important that Switzerland convene a diplomatic conference in order to recognize the symbol of the Magen David Adom as a neutral Red Cross Organization symbol.

Swiss President Schmid noted that this was his first visit to Israel and said that he was very moved. He expressed the hope that the new museum would contribute to a cessation of anti-Semitism and terrorism, which the Swiss government completely condemns.

Swiss President Schmid said that in light of developments in the region and the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, he intended to submit a security plan to his government and parliament, the purpose of which would be to expand security purchases from Israel. Regarding Magen David Adom, he said that the Swiss government would assist on the issue so that the November Red Cross conference makes a positive decision.

Prime Minister Sharon said that the security fence was very important because in the areas where it has been built, suicide terrorists are almost completely blocked from entering Israel. Israel has made more than a few changes in the route of the fence and has invested considerable resources in order to ease conditions for the Palestinian population. The Prime Minister said: “It must be recalled what the impositions of the fence are weighed against – against the murder and wounding of innocent citizens.”  Prime Minister Sharon said that while the Palestinian leadership understands the price of terrorism, it has yet to do enough to prevent it. Some steps have been taken but they are insufficient; therefore, we need the fence as long as terrorism continues.

Regarding the outposts, Prime Minister Sharon said that there were 24 outposts that were built after March 2001 and added that Israel would evacuate them as it has committed to do under Roadmap. This is not an easy step today since we plan to implement the Disengagement Plan, which greatly preoccupies the security forces.

On the humanitarian issue, Prime Minister Sharon said that while Israel would like to lift all the checkpoints and closures, the moment it did so, terrorists would take advantage thereby to cross towards Israel. As long as it is quiet, we will be able to further ease conditions on the population. This depends on how much the Palestinians honor their Roadmap commitments.