(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met this afternoon (Monday), 18 December 2006, with a delegation of senior US Senators including John McCain (R-AZ), Joe Lieberman (Ind.-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME) and John Thune (R-SD), and US Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL). 

The Senators briefed the Prime Minister on their recent trips to Afghanistan and Iraq and on the tough policy decisions that await the US. They discussed the Baker-Hamilton report and emphasized that in their view, while the report has led to a broad political discussion, it will not necessarily become US policy, including regarding opposition to a dialogue with Iran and Syria.

Prime Minister Olmert described the situation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) and his efforts to advance an open dialogue between the PA and Israel. He said that there is slow progress in contacts with the Palestinians and added that he intends to meet with Abu Mazen in order to advance various issues on the agenda. The Prime Minister stressed that despite the fact that the firing of Kassam rockets has not stopped, Israel is honoring the ceasefire. He also discussed assistance to the Palestinian civilian population and various ways under consideration to extend such assistance without aiding extremists that support terrorism.

The Iranian issue also came up during the meeting. There was full agreement on condemning the Iranian regime, which openly calls for the destruction of Israel and is attempting to achieve a nuclear capability. Prime Minister Olmert emphasized that sanctions on Iran are highly significant and added that the US efforts are contributing to the overall measures that are necessary to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons technologies.

On the Syrian issue, the Senators expressed their strong opposition to dialogue with the Assad regime. Prime Minister Olmert reiterated his desire to achieve peace with Syria but emphasized that the current regime in Damascus is not interested in a dialogue for peace, is continuing to support extremists in Lebanon, Iraq and the PA, and is Iran’s senior ally. The Prime Minister noted that Khaled Mashal resides in Damascus since no other state in the region is prepared to receive him.