Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said he and visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin see eye to eye on the dangers of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
The two leaders met for over an hour in Jerusalem and discussed Iran, Syria, Egypt and bilateral ties.
“We agree that nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran would be a danger to Israel, the region and the whole world,” Netanyahu said during a post-meeting press conference.
Putin acknowledged that the talks covered Iran and the uprising in Syria, but added that he saw negotiations as the only solution for such matters.
The Russian leader made a brief statement following the meeting, saying his visit served to reinforce relations between the countries.
“My arrival in Israel has strengthened my belief that there exists between us friendly ties and not just words,” Putin said.
Putin also said that in his opinion the spread of democracy in the Middle East should be allowed to go ahead without outside influence.
The meeting was also attended by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, and National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror.
“You have come at a time when there are great changes in the region,” Netanyahu said during the press conference, calling once again for the world to take action against Iran’s nuclear program.
The meeting was part of Putin’s first visit to Israel since 2005. After arriving Monday morning, the Russian president joined President Shimon Peres for the unveiling of a memorial site honoring the soldiers of the Red Army who were killed during World War II.
Putin is scheduled to travel to the Palestinian Authority and Jordan on Monday night, where he is to meet with Arab leaders Tuesday.
Netanyahu asked Putin to take a personal message to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
”I am prepared to meet Abbas. Either I will go to him or he can come to me,” Netanyahu said. “Please deliver that simple message during your meeting in Bethlehem.”
The prime minister remarked on the ever-improving ties between Russia and Israel, covering everything from technology to tourism.
“There are a million Russian-speaking Israelis and they form a living bridge between Russia and Israel,” Netanyahu said. “There are many that cross it. Last year half a million Russian tourists came to Israel.”
In the past, Putin has called Israel a Russian-speaking country.
Earlier, Barak commented on Putin’s visit during a meeting of his Atzmaut party at the Knesset, Maariv reported.
“Putin’s visit is very important, and Russia is an important world power, the world power closest to our region and to our borders,” he said.
After drawing attention to Russia’s influence on developments in Syria during recent decades Barak speculated on the part it will have in the current dramatic events of Israel’s northern neighbor.
“She [Russia] will have an important role in stabilizing Syria the day after Assad,” Barak said and added that Russia also has great importance in the international efforts against Iran, both in diplomacy and in sanctions.
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