Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met this evening

President Moshe Katsav and made the following remarks at the start of the meeting: “As usual, I am happy to come here. I ascribe great importance to your trip to Italy and your meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. Despite the fact that I cannot set the President’s itinerary, it seems to be that his visits abroad are very important. I would increase these visits as much as possible, to Europe, Africa, Latin America and everywhere. I like visiting with the President very much. We discuss many issues – social issues, the war on poverty, the struggle against violence, advancing education and, of course, security issues that I deal with on a daily basis, and the need to continue the diplomatic process. I am certain that meetings with the President will continue. We have a great many issues to discuss and I learn much from the President.” In response to a question regarding the archaeological find at Megiddo () and the possibility of moving the site, Prime Minister Sharon said: “I saw this yesterday and I was very excited, like I am with every archaeological discovery with us. It boggles the mind. I do not think that it is possible now to answer how we will deal with the site. This issue has to be examined. It is certainly an amazing story and I am certain that we have many other historic sites that have yet to be discovered.” In response to a question on the Disengagement Plan, Prime Minister Sharon said: “When the implementation of the disengagement was finished, I told both the Cabinet and the committee that I established that while the disengagement was very important for the State of Israel, and was a very difficult move, we must now work on one main issue – resettling the evacuees while making a major effort to preserve their community frameworks. Once a week, I hold discussions in which I receive reports on the situation in each field. I held such a discussion today.” In response to a question regarding the possibility of meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen, Prime Minister Sharon said: “No meeting has been set. We have a major interest in advancing the diplomatic process. We have a plan and it is the Roadmap, with such reservations and comments as the Government has decided upon. I hope that the PA will take the necessary steps, especially the cessation of terrorism, so that we will be able to begin a serious discussion regarding the Roadmap. Today, in my opinion, the Palestinians have a rare opportunity to advance the diplomatic process, which I very much want to advance. There is one area in which we will not make any concessions and that is the issue of security. We are prepared to go far and to help but in the area of security, there will be no concessions on the State of Israel’s part.”