(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met this morning (Tuesday), 17 January 2006, with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos. At the start of the meeting, the latter said that while Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s situation is painful, he is hopeful for an improvement and noted that Acting Prime Minister Olmert now faces great responsibilities. The Acting Prime Minister said we pray every morning that Ariel Sharon will wake up and return to himself.
Acting Prime Minister Olmert said that he was pleased that this morning’s meeting was held on the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Spain.
Acting Prime Minister Olmert said that his first decision as Acting Prime Minister was to enable elections to be held in eastern Jerusalem because it is important that Israel allow these elections so that the Palestinians would have no excuse to fulfill their obligations afterwards. He said that it was forbidden to differentiate between Hamas’s political and military arms. Hamas is a terrorist organization and must be treated as such. It must disarm; on this issue there can be no compromise. The Acting Prime Minister said that it was important for Abu Mazen to deal with this immediately after the elections, according to a clear timetable. He told the Spanish Foreign Minister about his meeting with Abu Mazen at the Barcelona conference and said that while the meeting had been friendly, there would be no compromise on the issue of Hamas and the war on terrorism.
Spanish Foreign Minister Moratinos said that Hamas was the main enemy of those who seek peace and it must be considered how best to defeat it. He added that this was Europe’s position and that Europe would act accordingly. He estimated that the new Palestinian leadership would be more modern and more democratic.
Acting Prime Minister Olmert said that after the elections he would work to enhance relations between Israel and the European Union.
The two men also discussed the Iranian issue and Israeli-EU trade.
Earlier this morning, Acting Prime Minister Olmert met with EU Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner and emphasized that for Israel it made no difference whether Hamas was in the parliament and/or government or not, it had to be disarmed in any case. He said that Europe could play an important role in pressing the Palestinians to disband the terrorist organizations and added, "Israel will not compromise with terrorism and intends to wage a harsh struggle against it."