Medvedev nixes visit over Foreign Ministry labor dispute

PM: This hurts national interest; ministry official says this is "worst crisis in the history of Israel’s foreign service.”

Medvedev angry 311  (photo credit: Associated Press)
Medvedev angry 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was forced on Monday to cancel his first trip to Israel as Russia’s leader because of Foreign Ministry work sanctions that threatened to disrupt the visit.
Pini Avivi, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director-general for Central Europe and Eurasia, said that both Jerusalem and Moscow were concerned that the visit – the first by a Russian president since Vladimir Putin’s trip here in 2005 – would be “less than perfect” as a result of the sanctions, and therefore decided to postpone it.
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Medvedev was scheduled to come as head of a delegation numbering several hundred people, including businessmen and journalists. His stay in Israel was to be part of a regional trip, and it was not immediately clear whether the whole regional trip was being postponed as well.
Avivi said it had been agreed with Moscow that the visit would be rescheduled once the work sanctions ended.
A spokesman at the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv said that Israel had asked for the postponement of the meeting. “It is a pity,” the spokesman said, adding that it was not clear how quickly a visit could be rescheduled.
Medvedev was expected to hold discussions here on a wide range of issues, from Iran, through the diplomatic process with the Palestinians, to Russian arms sales to Syria.
Foreign Ministry diplomatic workers stepped up sanctions last week after an 8- percent pay raise offer was dismissed by the workers’ committee as embarrassing.
In addition to Medvedev, both the Croatian and Slovenian prime ministers have canceled visits scheduled for this month.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed disappointment at the cancellation of Medvedev’s trip, saying it harmed Israel’s national interests.
Ya’acov Livne, co-head of the Foreign Ministry workers’ committee, said he was “very sorry” about the cancellation of the visit, which he described as “important and even historic.”
But, said Livne – who is deputy director of the Central Europe and Eurasia division – the responsibility for the cancellation rested with the Treasury.
“It is not easy for us to cancel a visit like this, but unfortunately there is no choice, and this is the only language the Finance Ministry understands,” he said. He called on Netanyahu to get involved and find an immediate solution to “perhaps the worst crisis in the history of Israel’s foreign service.”