(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today (Wednesday), 18 October 2006, made the following remarks after his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin:

“Mr. President, I would like to thank you with all my heart for the opportunity to come here and for the very serious, in-depth meeting that we had. I am again impressed by your abiding friendship for the State of Israel and by your deep commitment to the security of the State of Israel.

 Today is an historic day – the 15th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between Israel and Russia. In the past 15 years, bilateral relations have developed in various fields – in the diplomatic, economic, scientific, technological and even sports spheres.

Your contribution to the development of bilateral relations in recent years has been decisive. Mr. President, I am certain that – under your leadership – this process will continue. Bilateral trade is currently in the billions of dollars and I fully share the assessment that this could at least double in the coming years. We must cooperate in all areas of business, economic and commercial activity.

In our discussions, the main issues on our and on the international community’s agenda in the Middle East naturally came up. I made it clear to President Putin that the Iranian issue is the State of Israel’s top concern. We do not have the privilege of allowing a situation to be created in which a country like Iran has non-conventional capabilities; Israel cannot countenance this. For us, when the leader of a country says that he wants to destroy us, this does not sound like mere verbiage to us but something that we must prepare for in order to prevent by all possible, acceptable means.

I heard an in-depth and comprehensive analysis from President Putin on the Iranian issue and I am convinced that the President now better understands the constraints that the State of Israel must deal with in this context.

Of course, we also discussed the Palestinian problem and relations with the Palestinian government, especially Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen. I made it clear to President Putin that I am interested in meeting Abu Mazen as soon as possible, that there is almost daily contact between my people and Abu Mazen’s aides, that I am committed to dealing with the Palestinian issue and that I do not accept the current stalemate. There is no doubt that the key to progress in the Middle East on this issue is the full agreement to implement the principles of the Quartet that are based on the clear, explicit and unequivocal recognition of the State of Israel, recognition and full implementation of the agreements that have been signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and the cessation of all acts of terrorism. Russia has an important role to play as one of the main elements of the Quartet but, beyond this, also due to its special status in international and regional affairs and to the special stature of a world leader like President Putin.

Of course, we also discussed the situation in Lebanon and the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution #1701, to whose approval Russia contributed. The two main components in shaping the situation in Lebanon from our perspective are the embargo on weapons transfers to Lebanon and the effective operation of Lebanese and international forces in southern Lebanon to block Hizbullah, and maintaining the position and stability of the Lebanese government in the face of attempts to undermine it by Hizbullah from within and by Syrian forces from without.

Finally, I would like to thank you Mr. President for the very important invitation that moved me so much. I am certain that very many residents of the State of Israel see Russia in terms of their unique and deep ties with it. I want to thank you for your continuing efforts to bring about the release of Israeli soldiers Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas, and Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who are in Hizbullah’s hands. Naturally, I believe that we will continue to work together in order to further improve, strengthen and enhance our bilateral relations, which will lead to greater stability and quiet in the region.

Thank you very much.”