Russian President Vladimir Putin reassured President Shimon Peres on Monday evening that his country is interested in preserving peace for the Jewish State.
But he also said Israel should be think twice before taking any action on Iran, saying Jerusalem should learn lessons from the United States’s experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The two presidents met for the second time that day at a state banquet held in Putin’s honor at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. Putin is visiting Israel as his first Middle East stop since returning to the presidency in March. On Tuesday he is to go to Bethlehem, and then on to Jordan.
During a short press conference at the start of the banquet Peres raised the subject of Iran and its threats to Israel, pressing Putin to comment on the existential dangers facing the Jewish State.
“Iran announces quite clearly that it wants to destroy Israel,” Peres said. “We can’t abide by a reality in which those who seek to destroy us have nuclear weapons.”
Putin, who has backed a diplomatic solution to curbing Iran’s nuclear program, warned that a decision to attack the Islamic Republic should not be taken lightly.
“Look what happened to America in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Putin said. “I told Obama also. You don’t need to jump to things too early, you don’t need to act before thinking. In Iraq there is a pro-Iranian government after everything that happened there. You need to think well before doing something you’ll be sorry about.”
Putin responded that Israel is significant to his countrymen and reminded Peres that the Soviet Union voted in favor of establishing the State of Israel.
“Russia has a national interest in preserving Israel’s peace,” he said and added that in his meeting earlier in the day with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the two leaders had discussed broadening the strategic cooperation between the countries.
“The region and the whole world is changing and renewing at fast pace,” Putin said. “In this situation of change and renewal we need to find ways for cooperation in region and the wider world that will enable everyone to live in peace and quiet.”
Earlier on Monday Putin joined Peres at the inauguration of a memorial in memory of the Red Army soldiers who died fighting the Nazis in WWII.
Israeli leaders have been concerned that Russia is reluctant to ratchet up economic pressure on Iran in an effort to persuade it to abandon its nuclear weapons drive. That issue, and concern over Russian military relations with Syria — and the prospect of Russian weaponry ultimately being used against Israel — were high on the agenda of Putin’s meetings with Israeli leaders Monday.