(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)
Following are Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's remarks at the start of his meeting this morning (Sunday), 19 June 2005, with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:
"We are pleased to host here in Jerusalem US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice. Dr. Rice is a friend of Israel and we want to thank you for this and for your efforts to advance the diplomatic process in the region. I would like you to convey warm regards to US President George Bush and to thank him for his personal friendship and for the US's great support of Israel.
The State of Israel is on the threshold of an historic process. Today, one can already see the fruits of disengagement and I am certain that our diplomatic, security and economic situations will further improve as a result of the disengagement. This is a hard, even very hard, step for Israel; however, we will implement the disengagement exactly according to the decisions.
I would like to thank you, Ms. Secretary of State, for the US's great support for the Disengagement Plan. I believe that the plan's successful implementation, quietly and in coordination with the Palestinians, will give momentum to the efforts to resume the diplomatic process according to the Roadmap. All of this is on condition that the Palestinians halt the terrorism, violence and incitement, dismantle the terrorist organizations, collect their weapons and implement the necessary administrative reforms.
The US has a very important role to play in promoting the processes in the Middle East and in assisting the progress of the Disengagement Plan. I want to thank the envoys who have invested considerable time and effort in moving forward the processes in our region, especially American General William Ward, who is working on security issues, and quartet envoy James Wolfensohn, who is working on economic issues. I would also like to thank Elliot Abrams and David Walsh, with whom we have a good and deep working relationship.
Israel is a peace-seeking country. After so many long years of terrorism, blood and smoke, achieving security, quiet and peace is not an easy mission. We hope that the terrorism will cease and then we - Israelis and Palestinians, assisted by the US - will be able to make progress towards achieving the hoped-for peace."
Statement by U.S. Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice
Mr. Prime Minister, I am honored to be here in Israel to discuss our focus on Gaza Disengagement as the key to enhancing Israeli security and as a key to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
The Prime Minister is a close friend of the United States. He has displayed courage and vision in putting forth his Disengagement Plan. President Bush and I admire the leadership of the Prime Minister, his giving to this nation and his commitment to peace and security in the region, and, Prime Minister, I bring you the President's greetings.
The Israeli people deserve a secure and peaceful future, free from the threat of terror and violence. The United States' commitment to Israel and to its security remains strong. We will support Israel as it implements the disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. A successful disengagement will enhance the security of Israel, and it should give a sense of confidence and trust between the Israelis and Palestinians as they look to a better future.
When Prime Minister Sharon outlined his vision and plans to President Bush in April 2004 and then at Crawford earlier this year, we expressed our steadfast support and we stand behind the commitments that we have made to the Prime Minister and to the people of Israel.
My visit here today is testament to the strength of our bilateral relationship and to the genuine friendship that exists between our peoples - a friendship that is based first and foremost on shared values.
I want to thank the Prime Minister once again for having me here. I look forward to our discussions about the Disengagement Plan, about the plans to make that disengagement peaceful and orderly, and about the degree to which the Disengagement Plan as an historic step can lead to the eventual resolution and the eventual ability to get to a two-state solution. The President has outlined a two-state solution; the Roadmap is, of course, the reliable guide to that two-state solution, and we look forward to working with the Prime Minister and with the Israeli people on that historic course.
Thank you, Prime Minister.