Statement by Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom Following Meeting with Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarishvili

Jerusalem, October 27, 2003

It is my pleasure to welcome Foreign Minister Menagarishvili to Jerusalem once again. We have just concluded a very constructive meeting where we discussed the full range of bilateral and regional issues, including the international war on terror.

The Georgian community here in Israel numbers 100,000 and is the largest outside the former Soviet Union. It serves as a bridge of friendship and understanding between Israel and the Republic of Georgia and as a basis for close cooperation between our countries in many fields.

Israel and Georgia both have much to gain from increased trade relations and joint economic endeavors. I look forward to working with my colleague to advance such initiatives, including major projects like the Baku-Tbilisi-Chihan pipeline.

Regarding the situation in the Middle East, I reiterated to the Foreign Minister Israel’s firm commitment to ending the conflict with our Palestinian neighbors through negotiations based on the Roadmap. The only way we can make progress in this direction is for the Palestinian Authority to finally take the strategic and moral decision to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.

We agreed on the importance of international cooperation in the war against terror, and we both expressed our commitment to ensuring that the values of democracy and stability prevail over those of tyranny and fear. I also reiterated the importance of preventing Iran – a country committed to the destruction of Israel and one of the world’s chief sponsors of terror – from acquiring nuclear weapons capability.

The Iranian nuclear program is a danger not only to the Middle East and, but indeed to the entire world, and it must be stopped.

I asked the Foreign Minister to extend my deep appreciation to President Eduard Shevardnadze for the commitment to Jewish freedom that he demonstrated while serving as the Foreign Minister of the Former Soviet Union. His ongoing friendship and the friendship of the Georgian government and its people continue to pave the way for our close cooperation to the benefit of both our peoples.