Russia appreciates Israeli 'balance'

Russian ambassador tells 'Post' that Moscow, too, recognizes Georgia's terroritorial integrity.

putin 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
putin 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Russia very much appreciates the "balanced" approach Israel has demonstrated during the current Russian-Georgian conflagration, its charge d'affaires told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. Anatoly Yurkov, filling in temporarily for Ambassador Petr V. Stegniy, who is on vacation in Moscow, said that Russia believed the Israeli comment on the crisis issued Sunday by the Foreign Ministry was evenhanded. That statement, which followed a meeting convened by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, read, "Israel is following with great concern the developments in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and hopes the violence will end. Israel recognizes the territorial integrity of Georgia and calls for a peaceful solution." Yurkov said he was in contact with the Foreign Ministry on Monday to express Moscow's appreciation for the statement. He said that Moscow, too, recognizes Georgia's territorial integrity, and is not aiming to annex South Ossetia or Abkhazia, only protect Russian peacekeeping troops there. While Russia was pleased with the statement, Israel's only formal comment yet on the situation in Georgia, Vladimir Konstantinidi, the charge d'affaires in Georgia's embassy in Tel Aviv said soon after it was released that Georgia had hoped for a more categorical statement from Israel on the matter. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told Ynet Monday that Israel was maintaining its friendly ties with Georgia, and also shared with Russia a "common way of looking at things." She said Israel and Russia shared common interests in the region, adding that Israel was working diplomatically with both countries. Livni spoke Monday evening with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and discussed the situation in Ossetia. She said that Israel was watching the situation there with "concern," and hopes that the cease-fire will go into effect as soon as possible. Livni emphasized that Israel had good ties with both the Russians and the Georgians, and that Israel is in contact with Israelis in Georgia as well as the Georgian Jewish community. She stressed the need to keep the airport open in order to allow those who want to leave to do so. The Foreign Ministry said that Livni later plans to speak with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Yurkov, meanwhile, dispelled the notion of a fissure in Israeli-Russian relations as a result of past Israeli arms sales to Georgia, estimated to have been between some $300 - $500 million over the past decade. "We are appreciative of Israel's position of not selling offensive weapons to a conflict area," Yurkov said. "There is no crisis over this." Yurkov said Moscow was likely to take Israel's position of not selling offensive weapons to Georgia into account when weighing its own arms sales to Iran and Syria. Israeli diplomatic officials said that Jerusalem was "walking a tightrope" on this issue. On the one hand Israel did not want to abandon Georgia, which has been a friend to Israel, yet at the same time it did not want to alienate Russia, which as a member of the UN Security Council and the Quartet, as well as an arms supplier to Iran and Syria, could harm key Israeli interests if relations between Jerusalem and Moscow soured.