Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday at the seaside Russian resort of Sochi in a first official meeting between the two leaders.
Putin told the prime minister that as they mark 30 years of diplomatic relations, he views relations between Russia and Israel as important, not least of all due to the presence of a million Russian speakers in Israel many of them veterans of WWII, who are viewed with warmth by Russia.
"I can tell you on behalf of the citizens of Israel that we consider you a true friend of the Jewish people," Bennett said.
The Russian president expressed his hope that Bennett's government will continue the good relations forged with the previous Israeli government.
He said that he hoped Israeli-Russian trade will increase. He noted that in the first seven months of 2021, there was an increase of 50% in the trade balance, which he views as important.
Putin also said Russia was hopeful that the two countries would cooperate in the high- tech industry as well.
He said he is looking forward to discussing regional matters. Russia is attempting to rebuild Syrian infrastructure in the wake of the civil war and there are many problematic issues to be discussed but also opportunities for cooperation, especially the fight against terror.
"We will also talk about the situation in Syria, and the efforts to halt the Iranian military nuclear program," Bennett said at the start of his talks with Putin.
Putin ended his comments saying he was happy to welcome the Israeli prime minister to Russia.
Bennett thanked Putin for the warm welcome he received upon his arrival in Sochi. He commended the role of Russia in defeating the Nazi's in WWII.
"Our responsibility is to pass our gratitude to Russia to the next generations including with monuments honoring the Red Army and Russian veterans among them one Putin himself dedicated during in his visit in 2020.
Bennett visited a new museum in memory of the Jewish soldiers who fought in WWII, many of whom served in the Red Army.
He said he looked forward to discussing bi-lateral cooperation on economy, culture and science adding that trade relations must be bolstered.
"The Israeli Russian relations are special because of the past, the present and the future," the prime minister said and added that the Russianspeaking Israelis play a major role in all aspects of Israeli life.
The prime minister said he would discuss the situation in Syria and the Iran's nuclear ambitions will be discussed during the leaders meeting.
"Our conversation will be based on the deep ties between the two nations and peoples, that you have led," he said.
"We regard you to be a true friend of the Jewish people," Bennett told Putin.
First published: 12:25, 10.22.21