Russia will open an office in Jerusalem that will serve as a branch of its embassy to the country and will provide consular services, while settling a land dispute at the same time, the two countries said Friday.
The land on which the new complex will be built was acquired by the Russian Empire in 1885 but has long been the subject of dispute between Moscow and the Jerusalem Municipality over its exact area, taxes and other bureaucratic matters.
The plot currently hosts a parking lot, and the municipality had for some time sought to expropriate some of the area for the purposes of a new light rail line that will be built on King George Street.
According to the Israel Hayom newspaper, Israel agreed to release its claim on the plot and forego taxation — apparently seeing diplomatic benefit in another country increasing its diplomatic presence in the capital.
Most countries do not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv, viewing the city as a disputed matter that must be settled as part of a peace deal with Palestinians. The only countries with embassies in Jerusalem are the US (opened under Donald Trump), Guatemala, Honduras and Kosovo. However, multiple countries do operate consular offices in Jerusalem.
According to a statement from Israel’s Foreign Ministry, the Russian complex will host consular offices, an event hall and lodging for diplomats.
“The agreement is in line with the Foreign Ministry’s efforts to increase the number of diplomatic missions in Israel’s capital Jerusalem,” the ministry said.
According to Haaretz, Israel does not expect much blowback from its Western allies over the deal with Russia, despite its war on Ukraine, due to the matter being largely a real estate issue. But the paper, citing an unidentified government official, did note that Israel is aware that Kyiv may react negatively.
Lazar Berman contributed to this report.