(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met this afternoon (Sunday), 1 May 2005, with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
At the beginning of the meeting, Prime Minister Sharon said: “Turkey is a central country in our region and we have friendly relations with it. I hope that the Turkish Prime Minister’s visit, along with that of his distinguished entourage, will lead to the enhancement of bilateral relations, and I believe that this visit will certainly assist in creating a better atmosphere in the Middle East, will facilitate the advancement of diplomatic processes and – with God’s help – will bring about quiet and peace.”
Prime Minister Sharon welcomed his Turkish counterpart on his first visit to Israel as Turkish Prime Minister and said that the visit would contribute towards the advancement and development of bilateral relations.
Prime Minister Sharon said that he ascribes great importance to the fact that his Turkish counterpart decided to bring ministers, MPs and business people with him and added that there is no doubt that including them in the delegation would also contribute towards the advancement of bilateral relations on a range of issues.
Prime Minister Sharon congratulated both Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and the Turkish people on the great achievement in the beginning of talks on Turkey’s accession to the European Union. Israel ascribes great importance to EU expansion and the inclusion of Turkey, as factors that will contribute to the strengthening of regional stability and prosperity.
Prime Minister Sharon said that Turkey, as the chairman of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), had the ability to be a central element in leading a line based on tolerance and dialogue so as to strengthen the moderate camp.
The two leaders expressed satisfaction over the increase in bilateral trade, which currently stands at $2 billion and added that they hoped that the current visit would lead to further increases.
On the Palestinian issue, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said that Turkey is interested in helping to find a solution to the conflict and added that the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings were very important and must be upheld. He said that Abu Mazen has brought hope and change to the region and must be strengthened.
Regarding the Disengagement Plan,Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said that he supports the Plan and hopes that it will be coordinated with the Palestinians.
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan invited Prime Minister Sharon to visit Turkey.
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said that the Turkish government views anti-Semitism as a crime against humanity.
On the issue of terrorism, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said that Turkey understands that terrorism has neither religion nor country, and that since it is impossible to know where and when it will strike next, there must be no intelligence rivalries; rather, joint activity must be encouraged. He said that 40,000 Turks have been affected by terrorism in the past 15 years.
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan thanked Prime Minister Sharon for Israel’s efforts to prevent disturbances on the Temple Mount.
Prime Minister Sharon said that while Israel is interested in advancing the diplomatic process, this would not happen until the Palestinians honor their commitments and until there is a total cessation of terrorism, violence and incitement. He asked his Turkish counterpart to pass on this message at his meeting tomorrow (Monday), 2 May 2005, with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmud Abbas. Prime Minister Sharon that if progress is made on the Roadmap and the conditions are ripe for an international conference, he would be pleased if it was held in Turkey.
Prime Minister Sharon said that he had proposed to Abu Mazen the coordination of various aspects of the Disengagement Plan and expressed the hope that the Palestinians would indeed do so.
Prime Minister Sharon said that the understandings that he and Abu Mazen reached at Sharm el-Sheikh have not been implemented by the Palestinians and added that it would be difficult for us to transfer security responsibility over additional cities if they avoid taking tangible steps against terrorism.
Prime Minister Sharon said that the steps that Abu Mazen is taking, including the strategic decision that he made not to confront the terrorist organizations but to reach understandings with them, are going in the opposite direction from the Roadmap. He promised the terrorist organizations that they would not be disbanded, that their weapons would not be impounded and that they would be integrated into the Palestinian political system – all of this contravenes their Roadmap commitments.
Prime Minister Sharon said that Abu Mazen must decide in which direction he is going, either in the direction of the Roadmap or in the direction of dialogue and understandings with terrorism. If he chooses the latter, it will be impossible to proceed with him towards implementing the Roadmap, and terrorism will resume with much greater force.
Prime Minister Sharon said: “The steps that he is taking worry me. I am willing to help him, I want him to succeed, but he must take steps against terrorism because the Roadmap cannot proceed together with terrorism. Only if he takes steps against the terrorist organizations will we be able to help him.”
Prime Minister Sharon added that the Palestinians have lost more than once because of terrorism and if terrorism does not stop, they will continue to lose.
Prime Minister Sharon also said: “I have asked Vice Premier Shimon Peres to assist the Palestinians in rehabilitating their economy and in finding ways to enlist the international community in the rehabilitation of Gaza following the Israeli withdrawal. We are working together with the Palestinian Authority Finance Minister in order to create a national insurance framework in order to provide needy persons with the services currently provided by Hamas. It is important that Turkey be involved in this activity.” Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan asked that Israel further assist Abu Mazen so that he will succeed in the elections and have more power to meet his commitments. He said that one must be optimistic vis-a-vis the implementation of the Roadmap so that terrorism does not win. He offered to create tripartite working groups in order to examine the possibility of, “fighting terrorism, maintaining quiet and establishing peace.”
Prime Minister Sharon noted that his Turkish counterpart was an avowed soccer fan and said that in light of the fact that cooperation on the soccer field has led Israeli players Haim Revivo and Pini Balili to play in Turkey, there must be greater cooperation in high-tech and other areas. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said that Turkey would be happy to send Turkish players to Israel. The Turkish Prime Minister told Prime Minister Sharon about his visit earlier today to Yad Vashem and said that he was proud that only in Turkey and in Bulgaria were Jews not persecuted because of their faith. Prime Minister Sharon said that Israeli tourists love Turkey and the fact that 300,000 Israelis visit there annually proves this.