(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon today, (Thursday), 20 January 2005, spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The conversation was friendly and centered around various issues related to the Middle East, including the Disengagement Plan and the possibilities of implementing it, relations with Syria and Hizbullah and their involvement in terrorism, and recent changes in the region in the wake of Abu Mazen’s election.

Prime Minister Sharon noted that there are hopes that the new Palestinian leadership will change the Palestinians’ strategy and will cease terrorist actions against Israel. The Prime Minister said that in the past few weeks we have experienced a wave of Palestinian terrorist attacks, that we have suffered many fatalities, that this situation cannot continue, and that Israel is obligated to fighting terrorism.

Prime Minister Sharon said that he is committed to the Disengagement Plan and that he intends to implement it despite the internal problems, but added that terrorist attacks only make this more difficult.

Prime Minister Sharon said that Syria and Hizbullah are encouraging terrorist actions against Israeli targets, both from within Lebanon and via Palestinian terrorist organizations, and added that they are the main challenge to the new Palestinian leadership.

The two agreed to talk again in a few days about various issues on the agenda.