Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a face-to-face meeting at the Kremlin late Tuesday afternoon a day after Moscow called for the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian talks.
“It is important to get the Israeli-Palestinian settlement [peace] process going,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow on Monday, at a joint press conference with Finish Foreign Minister Timo Soini who had just met with Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Thursday.
In describing his conversation with Soini, Lavrov said the two men had spoken of the need to resolve regional conflict including the ongoing civil one in Syria.
Lavrov will be meeting on Wednesday with Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki, who will also be visiting Moscow, just as Netanyahu gets ready to fly back to Jerusalem.
Russia, which is a member of the Quartet and also holds one of five permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council, is actively involved in attempts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations which have been frozen for over two years.
In the past it has made attempts to replace the US as the main broker in helping both sides achieve a deal. It has, therefore, offered lukewarm support to the French as they attempted to fill America’s shoes on Friday in Paris, by launching an initiative of their own.
Rather than sending Lavrov as its representative in Paris, it dispatched its Deputy Foreign Minister for Middle East and Africa countries Mikhail Bogdanov.
He reminded reporters in Paris that Russia had wanted to host an international peace conference on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over a decade ago as he spoke against the international temptation to impose a solution on the Israelis and the Palestinians.
“The idea of an international conference is still perceived negatively by Israel and its opinion cannot be ignored. These circumstances should also be taken into account in the work of the Paris forum, as any externally imposed solutions will likely fail,” Bogdanov said.
Russia, however, has gone much further than the US in supporting Palestinian statehood and is counted among the 136 nations that already recognize Palestine as a state. It has also spoken in the past with Hamas.
On Friday, in Paris, Bogdanov said, ‘I would like to stress that Palestine's acquisition of national sovereignty is certainly in line with the interests of the international community and would facilitate regional peace and stability and help build a democratic and prosperous Middle East.”
He added that resolution of that conflict would reduce the threat of terrorism in that region.
Netanyahu has gone to Moscow to discuss regional security interests and to coordinate the movement of the two militaries as well as to celebrate 25 years of diplomatic ties between Israel and Russia.
He has already laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Lone Soldier and helped inaugurate an exhibit at Moscow’s main Manege exhibition hall, “Open a Door to Israel” on innovation and technology.
Among those presenting made-in Israel products is a settler delegation organized by the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria.
Settlers have turned increasingly to Russia as an alternative friendly market for their products in response to the increasingly hostile climate toward them in Europe.
Netanyahu spoke in general of the warming Russian-Israel ties at the exhibit.
“We certainly feel at home. Israel's doors are open to Russia and Russia's doors are open to Israel,”he said.
“We are marking 25 years since the resumption of relations between us, and not only in culture and technology, but in so many other fields as well,” he said, as he referenced the role that Russian immigrants play as a bridge between the two countries.
“There is also a human bridge of over one million Russian-speakers who are our bone and our flesh, but who also come as goodwill ambassadors of a deep sympathy, Israeli citizens who emigrated from the former USSR.
“Those who were born and raised in the country absorbed much Russian culture and music,” Netanyahu said.
“There are bonds of sympathy and empathy between Israel and Russia, with a common past that has tragic chapters for both peoples, but also a very strong willingness to grasp and develop the future and move forward in creating a better future,” Netanyahu said.
Israel is very important to Russia because it is one of the significant countries in the Middle East, Russia President Vladimir Putin told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when the two men sat down to talk in the Kremlin on Tuesday afternoon.
"We attach great importance to our contacts with Israel, not only because Israel is one of the key countries on the situation in the Middle East, but also due to historical relations between our countries," Putin said.
"I am confident that your visit will be fruitful and will serve the cause of further strengthening our relations," he added.