British diplomats are seeking a stronger condemnation from Israel of the nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, earlier this month, after Israel’s belated statement failed to mention Russia or even the incident.
According to Hebrew media, London is dissatisfied with the Israeli response to the attack.
“We expect strong statements of support from all our close partners, Israel included,” the UK embassy in Israel said on Tuesday, in apparent reference to frustration over Israel’s condemnation.
On March 4, Skripal, once a Russian double agent, along with his daughter Yulia, and a British police officer, were poisoned with a rare and powerful nerve agent. Skripal and his daughter remain in critical condition, while the police officer is in serious condition.
On March 15, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem issued a statement condemning what it referred to only as “the event that occurred in Great Britain.”
“Israel views with gravity the event that occurred in Great Britain and condemns it vigorously,” the Foreign Ministry said. “We hope that the international community will cooperate in order to avoid such further events.”
Israel’s vaguely worded statement broke with the remarks made by other British allies, who identified Russia as being behind it.
Leaders from the United Kingdom, the United States, France, and Germany have blamed Russia for the assassination attempt. Moscow denies being the source of the nerve agent that poisoned the Skripals.
According to the Kan and Channel 10 news outlets, the Foreign Ministry only released its statement in light of a direct request from the British Ambassador in Israel to senior officials in the Prime Minister’s Office a day earlier.
Israel reportedly feared angering Moscow, which has taken on a major role in the Syrian civil war. On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin on his election win, eschewing criticizing the vote, as many other Western countries did.
Last week, Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats from the UK, severed high-level contacts with Moscow, and vowed both open and covert actions following the attack, plunging UK-Russia relations to a level not seen since the Cold War. The diplomats began leaving the embassy on Tuesday.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday that Moscow would “certainly” expel some British diplomats in a tit-for-tat response.
Skripal was arrested by the Russians in 2004 and sentenced to 13 years in prison. He was released in 2010 as part of spy prisoners exchange with the US and later settled in Britain.
Agencies contributed to this report.