MOSCOW – The Iranian regime is prepared to perpetrate a new Holocaust, President Shimon Peres told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on Thursday.

However, the Israeli president emphasized that the Iranian people themselves are not Israel’s enemies.

Peres and Putin shared an almost two-hour tete-a-tete during which bilateral relations were discusses as well as Iran, Syria and the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Speaking to Russian and Israeli reporters in the Kremlin afterward, Peres said he considered Russia a great country not only in terms of its vast geography, but also because of “the great Russian soul.”

Peres said he had come to Moscow to express his gratitude for the role the Russian people and the Soviet Red Army played in defeating the Nazis in World War II.

The Russian people fought bravely and did not stop fighting until they had helped save the world from “the greatest danger,” he said, noting that 13 million Soviet civilians died in the war.

“I thank Russia as a citizen of the world, and I thank Russia as a Jew,” Peres told Putin.

Returning to the Iranian threat, a topic the Israeli president has repeatedly emphasized during his three-day visit to Moscow, Peres said that Russia had played an important role in history, and must do the same in the future, to prevent Tehran obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“Neither you nor us hate Iran,” Peres said, telling Putin that it was the Iranian regime – which has denied the Holocaust – and not the Iranian people that threatened Israel.

The Israeli president also discussed the violence in Syria with his Russian counterpart, and called on Moscow to help bring about a cease-fire in that country.

“The Syrians are also not our enemies, but what is taking place now in Syria threatens both the Syrian people and the whole of the Middle East,” Peres said, adding that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime had begun to use “extreme measures” against rebel forces.

“Today, mortar shells from Syria fell in Israeli territory.

For a long time, the border with Syria has been quiet, and we hope it will continue to be so,” Peres said.

Peres said that Moscow was in a position to help end the bloodshed in Syria and also to bring peace to the wider Middle East.

Again returning to the Iranian threat and to the threat of Palestinian terrorism, Peres said Israel had a duty to defend itself.

“Today I drank wine from 1948, the year the USSR recognized Israel’s independence.

Ever since then, Israel has lived through seven wars.

We have no option but to defend ourselves and we will continue to do so whenever necessary,” he told Putin.

With his characteristic wry humor, the 89-year-old Peres said that he was “hardly the youngest person in the room.”

“You know, with age comes chutzpah,” he told Putin, 60.

“That’s why I permit myself to tell you and [51-year-old US President Barack] Obama that despite your youth, on your shoulders rests a tremendous responsibility for the future of this planet.

Peres ended his speech by saying Putin and Obama could usher in a new era for humanity.

“It’s possible to put an end to poverty, enmity and wars,” he said.

Putin called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to resume dialogue, telling Peres that negotiations were the only way to resolve the conflict.

“We have a mutual understanding about the need to resolve long-standing conflicts, especially the Arab Israeli conflict,” Putin said.

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