Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met today with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The two men met privately and then held an expanded meeting with the participation of their professional staffs.
US Defense Secy. Gates noted that since taking up office visiting Israel has been high on list of priorities in order to further advance the two nations’ close military and security relations.
The two men discussed a series of regional issues including bilateral security and strategic relations, Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Palestinians. Prime Minister Olmert updated US Defense Secy. Gates on recent diplomatic developments vis-à-vis the Palestinians and on the first indications of the change in the Arab world’s attitude towards Israel.
The two men said that strategic changes underway in the Middle East indicate that moderate Arab countries are preparing to deal with the phenomenon of extremist Islam, the main danger to regional stability. Prime Minister Olmert said that these changes have considerable influence on the desire to reach peace with Israel and on progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Regarding Syria, Prime Minister Olmert reiterated that Israel has no intentions of attacking Syria and made it clear that both sides needed to be wary of any miscalculation that could lead the two countries into a confrontation that neither is interested in.
Regarding Lebanon, Prime Minister Olmert expressed his concern over the phenomenon of weapons being smuggled to Hezbollah from Syria. He added that the international community must take steps to ensure that UN Security Council Resolution #1701 (http://tinyurl.com/g6wsd) is implemented in full and that such weapons smuggling is stopped.
The meeting was held in a friendly atmosphere and it was agreed that bilateral relations, vis-a-vis security and other areas, would be further enhanced in order to meet the challenges being faced by both countries.