In a sign of the increasingly close contacts between Moscow and Jerusalem, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced during a meeting in the Kremlin on Wednesday with visiting President Reuven Rivlin that he intends to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the near future to discuss security and economic issues.
“We have a wide range of questions connected with developing economic links,” Putin said during his meeting with Rivlin. “Questions connected with the need for security in the region. I hope that in the nearest future we can discuss them with the prime minister, with whom we agreed to meet.”
Netanyahu and Putin speak at regular intervals on the phone, and last met face-toface at the Paris climate conference in November.
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that the meeting would take place “soon,” but gave neither a date or locale for the meeting.
Netanyahu flew to Moscow in September, soon after Russia’s military engagement in Syria, to set up a mechanism to prevent accidental confrontations of Russian and Israeli fighter planes over Syria.
During a phone conversation last month, the two leaders “agreed to hold a number of top-level and high-level contacts to mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries,” according to the Kremlin.
Putin, in warm welcoming remarks to Rivlin before their meeting, noted the “long history” between Israel and Russia, and underscored that over 1.5 million Russian-speakers live in Israel, creating a unique bond.
“In Israel there live more than a million-and-a-half people from the former Soviet Union, who speak Russian and have Russian culture and mentality,” Putin said.
“They maintain ties with their friends and family who remain in Russia, and this gives a special flavor to the relationship.”
Putin mentioned the increasing numbers of Russian pilgrims visiting Israel, and thanked Jerusalem for returning to Moscow Russian ecclesiastical property in the capital.
Rivlin thanked Putin for the warm welcome, and said that the two countries were coordinating closely in a number of areas. He said that both countries know what it is to face terrorism and fundamentalism.
“As a Jew I want to say that we will never forget the Russian people and the Red Army in their victory over the Nazis,” he said. “Many Holocaust survivors throughout the world always remember that the first soldier they met at liberation was a Red Army soldier.”
In addition to meeting with Putin, Rivlin laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Kremlin, and visited the State Historical Museum in Moscow where he saw the Ginzburg Collection of Jewish books and manuscripts.Reuters contributed to this report.