Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman meets with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, January 26.
(photo credit: ISRAELI EMBASSY RUSSIA SPOKESMAN’S OFFICE)
Israel is prepared to mediate between Moscow and Kiev, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Monday in an interview with the Russian news organization RIA Novosti while visiting Moscow.
“[Israel’s neutrality in the conflict] is a good basis for mediation efforts, and we have several times announced our readiness to take those efforts and this entails not only […] words,” he told RIA Novosti.
Liberman, who was born in Moldova and speaks Russian fluently, said Israeli politicians like himself have a personal connection to the conflict but at the same time have a neutral stance to it that makes them natural mediators.
“This is not someone else’s tragedy for us. If someone told me a couple years ago that Russia and Ukraine would become enemies I would recommend that he see a doctor,” Liberman said.
The Prime Minister’s Office had no response to Liberman’s comments.
Liberman met Monday with his counterpart Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow to discuss bilateral relations between the two countries.
Russia blamed Kiev on Monday for a surge in fighting in Ukraine and warned the West to refrain from giving Ukraine signals of blanket approval for all of its actions.
Pro-Moscow separatists, backed by what NATO says are Russian troops, have launched an offensive in southeastern Ukraine and US President Barack Obama said Washington was considering all options short of military action to isolate Russia.
Lavrov said the separatists in Ukraine were responding to attacks by government forces and the only way forward was through direct dialogue.
“We are sure that it’s necessary to restore the peace process and for that we are making necessary efforts, first of all to begin fullfledged, solid, direct dialogue between Kiev and the rebels,” Lavrov told reporters at an afternoon news conference with Liberman.
“In the nearest days, as I know, there is some specific contact shaping up between them. We are trying, with everything in our power and ability, to facilitate these contacts.
We are expecting that both our Western partners won’t sit on the sidelines and European countries, above all Germany [and] France, who are taking part in the so-called ‘Normandy format’, and chiefly the United States, won’t do anything to give the Kiev authorities the impression that all of their actions automatically receive the support of the West,” he added.
Lavrov said it would have been “naive” to believe the separatists would accept being shelled by government forces without responding.
“To expect that the rebel forces would not act, when on the order of the president of Ukraine their cities, towns [and] civilian objects were shelled with heavy weapons and artillery from multiple rocket launchers, even with aviation, as it’s known – to expect that they would simply make peace with being bombed was naive. And they started to act, as far as I understand, and as they have announced, with the goal of liquidating those positions of the Ukrainian forces that carried out shelling [of] towns with heavy weapons,” Lavrov said.
He accused the West of “chronic” finger-pointing at Moscow over the Ukraine conflict, in which more than 5,000 people have been killed in more than nine months of fighting.
“We see attempts to derail the peace process and attempts again and again by the Kiev leadership to solve the problem by using force to suppress the Southeast. These attempts have no future and the most important thing is that they lead to new victims among the civilian population. Ukrainians are dying, the infrastructure is being destroyed, entire cities are being destroyed. Take a look at what has happened to Donetsk, to the Donetsk airport, which was the best airport in Ukraine [until] very recently. It’s horrible,” Lavrov said.
The European Union has called an emergency meeting of foreign ministers of its 28 member states for Thursday.