Putin backs ‘just’ solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict
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Putin backs ‘just’ solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict

After Kremlin meeting with Netanyahu, the fourth in less than a year, Russian president says Moscow and Jerusalem ‘partners’ in fighting terror

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of a meeting at the Kremlin on June 7, 2016 (screen capture: Facebook)
Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of a meeting at the Kremlin on June 7, 2016 (screen capture: Facebook)

MOSCOW — Meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday expressed support for a “comprehensive and just” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Netanyahu, Putin backed the two-state solution and Israel’s counter-terrorism efforts.

“We will be partners in the struggle against terrorism,” he said.

Before the press conference, Putin surprised Netanyahu with a private tour of the Kremlin and explained the history of the halls, pointing out some biblical imagery displayed on its walls, a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.

The two leaders later marked 25 years of diplomatic ties at the Bolshoi Theater, where Netanyahu said: “In another 25 years, when they look back, they will remember this evening as a turning point in our ties.”

The president noted the Russian roots of many Israeli artists and writers, and quoted Israeli author Amos Oz on the deep cultural relationship between the two countries.

Earlier, Putin hailed the increasingly cordial ties between the two countries.

“We place great importance on our relationship with Israel,” Putin said, at the beginning of their meeting in the Kremlin, noting that many Russian-speakers live in Israel. More than a million Jews and their relatives from the former Soviet Union moved to Israel when the Iron Curtain fell and travel restrictions were relaxed.

Netanyahu, speaking in Hebrew translated into Russian by Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, said he wanted to reinforce Putin’s point and highlighted the fact that two ministers in his government are Russian-speakers. He was apparently referring to Elkin and newly sworn-in Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, and apparently forgot his new immigrant absorption minister, Sofa Landver.

The two leaders then moved to continue their discussion behind closed doors, and were to emerge later for a joint press conference.

Netanyahu headed to Moscow on Monday for a two-day trip during which he was holding his fourth meeting with Putin in less than a year. The two leaders are expected to discuss Moscow’s involvement in the Syrian civil war and its reported delivery of advanced Russian weaponry to Iran.

In addition, Netanyahu is marking some 25 years of Israeli-Russian diplomatic relations, which were reestablished in January 1992, after the Soviet Union severed them in the wake of the 1967 Six Day War.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara take part in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in central Moscow on June 7, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/POOL/Maxim Shipenkov)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara take part in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in central Moscow on June 7, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/POOL/Maxim Shipenkov)

During their meeting, the two leaders were to continue their ongoing discussion over security coordination between the Russian and the Israeli armies, especially their so-called deconflicting mechanism installed to assure the Israel Defense Forces does not strike Russian jets operating in Syrian airspace.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in Moscow on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 (Prime Minister's Office)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in Moscow on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 (Prime Minister’s Office)

“They will also discuss various regional issues including the global fight against terrorism, the situation in and around Syria and the diplomatic horizon between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as bilateral economic and trade cooperation and the strengthening of cultural and humanitarian ties,” the Prime Minister’s Office said Sunday in a statement.

During Netanyahu’s visit, Jerusalem and Moscow were also to sign a bilateral pensions agreement, which seeks to “correct a historic injustice regarding emigres from the former USSR up to 1992 who lost their eligibility for a Russian pension,” the PMO said.

The agreement, which will only take effect after Russian authorities ratify it, was to be signed by Elkin and Russian Labor and Social Protection Minister Maxim Topilin. Payments to Soviet-born Israelis are expected to commence next year.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu visits the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow on Tuesday, June 7, 2016. To his left, in sunglasses, is Minister Uri Ariel. (Haim Zach / GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu visits the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow on Tuesday, June 7, 2016. To his left, in sunglasses, is Minister Uri Ariel.
(Haim Zach / GPO)

Netanyahu and his wife, Sara — who routinely accompanies the prime minister on his foreign trips — were also to visit the armored corps museum in Moscow, which is host to an IDF Magach-3 tank captured during the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in the 1982 Lebanon War. Last month, Israel announced that Putin had agreed to return the tank to Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walks past an honor guard upon arrival at Moscow's Vnukovo airport at the start of his two day trip to Russia, June 6, 2016. (AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walks past an honor guard upon arrival at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport at the start of his two day trip to Russia, June 6, 2016. (AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov)

Netanyahu visited the Russian capital in September 2015 and in April 2016. In addition, the two briefly got together last November on the sidelines of the Paris climate conference. In comparison, in the same time frame, Netanyahu has only met twice with US President Barack Obama.

Netanyahu told Putin — during their last powwow in April — about Israel’s “clear red lines” for purposes of self-defense. “First,” he said, “we are working to the best of our ability to prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry from Iran and Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Second, we are working to prevent the establishment of an additional terror front against us on the Golan Heights. These are red lines and we will continue to maintain them.”

During the current trip, Netanyahu was also to meet with several local Jewish leaders, including Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar; Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt; and Russian Jewish Congress President Yuri Kanner.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who also accompanied Netanyahu to Moscow, was scheduled to sign a memorandum of understanding with his Russian counterpart, Alexander Tkachev, on cooperation in agriculture, the dairy industry and advanced dairy technology.

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