Lapid to travel to Romania, Slovakia for Ukraine talks, visit border rescue efforts

Foreign minister to meet leaders of two nations, visit Israeli Foreign Ministry officials working to rescue Israelis, Jewish Ukrainians, and other refugees

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemns Russia's invasion of Ukraine, February 24, 2022. (Niv Musman/GPO)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemns Russia's invasion of Ukraine, February 24, 2022. (Niv Musman/GPO)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will travel to Romania and Slovakia, both of which border Ukraine, on Saturday night for talks with their leaders and to meet with Israeli officials working on the frontier, his office said Friday.

During the three-day visit, Lapid will meet Israeli Foreign Ministry officials who have been working under “emergency conditions” at the border crossings with Ukraine for the past two weeks, helping Israeli citizens, Ukrainian Jews, and other refugees fleeing the war.

Lapid will also meet the Romanian and Slovakian leaders and foreign ministers to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as bilateral relations with Israel.

On Sunday he will meet with Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă and Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu in Bucharest.

On Monday, Lapid will travel to Bratislava to meet Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova and Foreign Minister Ivan Korcoc.

The Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that nearly 11,000 Israelis have fled Ukraine in the past four weeks.

Ukrainian fleeing war zones in Ukraine are seen at the border at Palanca Moldova, on March 3, 2022. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Some 1,500 still remain in the country amid Russia’s invasion. According to the ministry, most of them are not interested in leaving at the moment or are not allowed to due to current military conscription laws.

All Ukrainian men aged 18-60 have been ordered to remain in the country to serve as a potential fighting force.

The ministry noted that there is still heavy traffic towards the border and recommended that Israelis still wishing to leave Ukraine do so through the Zahony border crossing with Hungary and the Palanca border crossing with Moldova.

Israel has sought to walk a diplomatic tightrope between Kyiv and Moscow since the Russian invasion.

Israel has avoided harshly criticizing Russia, or supporting Ukraine too strongly, because of Russia’s presence in Syria. Israel carries out airstrikes against Iran-linked targets in Syria, with Russia’s understanding, to prevent Iran-backed forces from gaining a foothold on Israel’s northern border.

However, Israel has also sought to capitalize on its strong ties with both nations to mediate between the two countries with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett flying to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and subsequently speaking several times to Ukraine’s Vlodomyr Zelensky.

Zelensky is slated to address the Israeli parliament via Zoom in the coming days, according to Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy.

Levy said on Thursday that he spoke with Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk to reiterate his invitation to Zelensky to address members of the Knesset.

Korniychuk and Levy have agreed to schedule a date for Zelensky’s address in the coming days, the statement said.

Zelensky has given similar speeches to officials and lawmakers in the United Kingdom, European Union, and Canada.

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