(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met this evening (Thursday), 7 September 2006, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Prime Minister said: “I am very pleased to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. We have met several times before and I am looking forward to my visit to Russia next month, at the  invitation of President Putin, in order to mark the 15th anniversary of the resumption of full diplomatic relations between Israel and Russia. Naturally, today we will discuss both bilateral relations and issues on the agenda in the Middle East. As you have certainly heard, we decided today, in coordination with the commander of UN forces in the Middle East, General Pelligrini, not to lift the naval blockade of Lebanon at this stage until the arrival of the naval forces necessary to maintain this blockade in place. I very much hope that the Italian, French and Greek naval forces necessary to continue the supervision of Lebanon’s ports will be ready shortly and that we will be able to evacuate when they take up positions.”

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said: “I am very pleased to be here in Israel, the land of our friends, friends who are going through a complex period like their neighbors. We are convinced that the efforts of all countries and governments in the region will find a way to reach peace and long-term security. I have arrived here after visiting Beirut and Damascus and I want to tell the Prime Minister and all other ministers that today, everyone wants peace more than ever, peace and security.

Now, the preferred position is that of those who do not want to live amidst endless arguments about who was right first and last. Everybody wants to sit around the negotiating table. Everyone aspires to reach decisions that will be acceptable to all and certainly to Israel. We always point out the Russian Federation’s full agreement that the State of Israel has the full right to peace and security. We are convinced that that there is no other way to resolve this problem except through peace.

We are certain that UN Security Council Resolution #1701, that we all worked on together, will be carried out in full by all sides. We think that the abductees should be released as soon as possible and we are also convinced that the military blockade of Lebanon must be lifted and that the Lebanese army needs to deploy in southern Lebanon in order to facilitate the Israeli army’s withdrawal as quickly as possible. But we are convinced that peace is attainable only if an international conference – with the participation of all sides – convenes. Lastly, I would like to point out that we are very much looking forward to the Prime Minister’s visit to Moscow in order to discuss bilateral relations.”

Prime Minister Olmert said that the two Israeli captives must be released at once and said that UN Security Council Resolution #1701 would not be implemented in full until this happens. Israel is fulfilling its part of the agreement and Lebanon must do likewise and release the two abducted soldiers immediately. The Prime Minister noted that the war in Lebanon began after Hizbullah violated UN Security Council Resolution #425 and attacked inside
Israeli territory.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said that he had heard strong claims in Lebanon against Israel regarding overflights of Lebanese territory, the action in Baalbek and the naval and air blockades. He said that he agrees that the two soldiers – and Gilad Shalit – must be released immediately and added that Russian President Putin understands this very well. He expressed the hope that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s actions on this issue would bear fruit. The Russian Foreign Minister asked about Israel’s position
regarding an international conference.

Prime Minister Olmert said that Syria is currently continuing to host terrorist organizations that operate against Israel and added that Damascus would not do so if it wanted to advance peace issues.

Prime Minister Olmert said that Israel was committed – and ready – to hold negotiations with Abu Mazen on the basis of the Roadmap: “I have said previously that we would agree to make a gesture for Abu Mazen and to signal to the Middle East that we are strengthening the moderates and are even ready to release prisoners.  After the abduction of Gilad Shalit, it is clear that the situation has changed.” The Prime Minister said that Israel was ready for a dialogue with Abu Mazen but only on the basis of the Roadmap.

Regarding the Shaba Farms, Prime Minister Olmert said that if it is determined that the area is Lebanese and not Syrian, as UN Secy.-Gen. Annan has previously determined, and if Lebanon fulfills in full its obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions #1701 and #1559, including the disarming of Hizbullah, we would agree to discuss the issue. The Prime Minister said that he had no problem regarding meeting his Lebanese counterpart in order to discuss all issues.

Prime Minister Olmert said that there could be no diplomatic progress as long as there is terrorism.

The two men also discussed Iranian issues.