FM meets Putin in surprise meeting in Moscow

Lieberman raises objections to Russian arms sales to Syria and Moscow's support for PA unilateral moves.

By
December 7, 2011 20:38
2 minute read.
Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

 
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Russian arms sales to Syria during the current violence and unrest there could have consequences unwanted by anyone, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during a surprise meeting in Moscow on Wednesday.

Lieberman traveled to Moscow from Lithuania, where he took part in a conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

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Although he had planned to go to Russia to take part in an economic conference and meet with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, a meeting with Putin was not on the original agenda.

Lieberman’s comments about the arms sales was apparently in reference to Moscow’s recent delivery – in defiance of Western calls for an arms embargo of Syria – of Yaknot cruise missiles it sold to Damascus in 2007. Under that deal, worth a reported $300 million, Russia was believed to have contracted to deliver 72 of the supersonic missiles to Syria, which it said would be used to protect Syria’s coast.

Both the US and Israel adamantly opposed that deal, with Israel expressing concerns that some of the missiles would fall into Hezbollah’s hands.

According to a communiqué put out by Lieberman’s office, the Foreign Minister did not paper over the differences between Israel and Russia during the 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.

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Regarding the Palestinian issue, Lieberman 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 recent 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, Lieberman 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.

Lieberman extended an invitation to Putin from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who was last in Moscow in early 2010. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had planned to visit Israel in January, 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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