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Ukrainian FM reportedly agrees to speak with Lapid after weeklong snub

Kyiv said to notify Jerusalem that Dmytro Kuleba ready to talk with foreign minister on Monday or Tuesday

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba listens to journalists during a news conference, in Antalya, Turkey, March 10, 2022. (AP Photo)
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba listens to journalists during a news conference, in Antalya, Turkey, March 10, 2022. (AP Photo)

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has agreed to speak with his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid after allegedly snubbing him for a week, according to a report Monday.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry informed Israeli officials that Kuleba had accepted Lapid’s request for a call, which will take place either Monday evening or Tuesday, the Walla news site said.

Lapid sought to speak with Kuleba last week, but was told that the Ukrainian foreign minister was busy, Walla and the Haaretz daily both reported Sunday evening.

Until Monday’s developments, Lapid had not heard back, the reports said, citing Ukrainian government sources.

Both reports said that the two men have not spoken for over three months.

Walla quoted an unnamed Ukrainian official as saying that one of the reasons Kuleba had not gotten back to Lapid was that Israel’s top diplomat had phoned Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, but had not reached out to Kuleba, in the weeks leading up to Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Lapid also reportedly did not respond to an invitation to visit Kyiv, which was relayed by Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova when she visited Israel last month.

“Israel maintains continuous contact with the government of Ukraine and Foreign Minister Lapid more than once condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We will continue to help Ukraine as much as possible,” Lapid’s office said Sunday in response to the reports.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid hosts Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova in Jerusalem, Febraury 13, 2022 (via Twitter)

Israel has long maintained good relations with both Ukraine and Russia, and has been seeking to use its unique position to broker an agreement, as it also tries to walk a tightrope maintaining its ties to both countries.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Saturday evening, a conversation that came several hours after the Ukrainian leader proposed that Jerusalem host ceasefire talks between Kyiv and Moscow, and asserted that Israel could play an “important role” in the efforts to end the war.

Israel’s relationship with Kyiv has been strained by the fact that Bennett has avoided directly blaming Russia for the war, although Lapid has done so on several occasions, with the latest during a visit to Romania on Sunday.

Ukraine has repeatedly pushed Israel for more support since Russia launched its invasion. But Israel has been seeking to avoid antagonizing Russia, which has a strong presence in Syria, where Israel carries out military action against Iran-linked groups.

There have been numerous apparent ups and downs in Kyiv’s relations with Jerusalem in recent days, with Ukraine at times lauding Israel’s diplomatic and humanitarian efforts and at other times strongly criticizing its reluctance to help more than it had done.

Channel 12 News reported last Tuesday that Israel sent a “stiff message” to Ukraine that it is not prepared to tolerate being publicly attacked by Ukrainian officials while it tries to mediate between Kyiv and Moscow.

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