PM Olmert talks about Italy’s role in upgrading Israeli-EU relations, containing Hamas while strengthening Palestinian moderates, and the Iranian threat.

 PM Olmert's remarks at joint press conference with visiting Italian PM Romano Prodi


(Photo: GPO)

(Communicated by Prime Minister’s Office)

"I am very pleased to have the opportunity to welcome you, Mr. Prime Minister, to the Prime Minister’s Residence and to have a serious discussion with you about matters on the agenda for Italy, Israel, the Middle East and the EU.  The ties between us go back many years.  We first met when you were the EU representative.  While most of your activities were in Brussels, you always showed great interest in the Middle East and Israel and already then I was very active in efforts to upgrade Israeli-EU relations.  Thanks to the agreement that we reached on Israeli exports, including those from the West Bank, we achieved a breakthrough in Israeli-European relations, which have become much more important, significant and fruitful.

I very much appreciate the fact that you were the first European Prime Minister to call me after the fighting in Lebanon and that you offered to send Italian soldiers to the multi-national force that is currently fulfilling an important role in southern Lebanon.  The Italian military is doing very important work and the commander of UNIFIL forces in southern Lebanon is an Italian general.  You certainly have an important role vis-à-vis this presence and this decision.

At our two meetings, at our long meeting yesterday evening and at today’s as well, we discussed Israel-Palestinian Authority (PA) relations.  We both agreed that a special effort must be made to improve relations with the Palestinian government.  While we both believe that Gaza is an inseparable part of the Palestinian entity, it is clear and self-evident that we cannot countenance the violent aggression of the Hamas terrorist organization that has taken over Gaza; we very much hope that the situation will change.  We discussed the efforts that must be made to strengthen the moderate forces in the PA in order to lead – in the end – to the beginning of a meaningful diplomatic process that can also lead us to talks about political horizons between us and the Palestinians.

Of course, we also discussed regional threats, the Iranian issue that concerns us so much.  Mr. Prime Minister, I greatly appreciate your very determined and aggressive position not to compromise with those elements that threaten to undermine stability in our region and which threaten the existence of the State of Israel.  Your remarks to me on these issues were warm and encouraging, and attest to the depth of your friendship with Israel.  On behalf of the State of Israel and the Government, I welcome you and thank you for your friendly visit."