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Putin to visit Israel amid Syria, Iran concerns
By HERB KEINON AND JPOST.COM STAFF
06/12/2012
Russian president to visit Israel for first time in 7 years; Moscow's stance regarding Syria, Iran at odds with Israeli positions.
 
Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning to make his first official visit to Israel since 2005, although the exact date for the visit has not yet been determined, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

News of Putin's expected visit came as Russia was the center of controversy for its continued support of Syrian President Bashar Assad, despite his brutal crackdown on dissenters. In addition, Russia has been seen as an impediment to harsher international action against Iran for its continued pursuit of nuclear technology. Putin has warned of the dire consequences of a potential Israeli or US attack on the Islamic Republic's nuclear facilities.

Foreign Minster Avigdor Liberman met with Putin in Moscow in December amid reports that Russia had delivered Yaknot cruise missiles to Syria, despite US and Israeli lobbying against the move.

According to a communiqué put out by Liberman’s office following the December meeting, he told Putin that Israel and Russia had different positions on a range of issues, from the diplomatic process with the Palestinians to current developments in the region, but that he hoped Israel’s position on matters such as Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas would get a hearing in Moscow.

Regarding the Palestinian issue, Liberman said Russia’s support for unilateral Palestinian moves does not bring an agreement closer or improve relations between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel’s position is that the type of support Russia has articulated for the PA’s moves at the UN only increase the Palestinians’ belief that they can get the world to impose a solution on Israel, thus making it more difficult to lure them to return to the negotiating table.

With that, Liberman said ties between the countries are “very positive” 20 years after the renewal of diplomatic relations between them, and that this was manifest in an ongoing political dialogue, in economic and cultural ties and in keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust.

Liberman extended an invitation to Putin from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who was last in Moscow in early 2010. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had planned to visit Israel in January 2011, but had to suffice with meeting Palestinian Authority officials in Jericho, where he arrived for a few hours from Jordan, because a Foreign Ministry work dispute prevented a full state visit to Jerusalem.
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