Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday afternoon to mark 25 years since the renewal of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
After the meeting, the two leaders spoke at a press conference to reflect on the relations between Israel and Russia. “The conversations with the prime minister were constructive,” said President Putin. “We had a discussion on bilateral relations and about international problems. Netanyahu is visiting here to mark 25 years since the renewal of diplomatic relations between Russia and Israel and our relations are deeper. The Soviet Union was the first country to recognize Israel as an independent state in 1948. In our statement, we mentioned that in the past quarter century, our relations developed in a quick and constructive way.”
Putin went on to discuss speak about plans to increase economic cooperation. “The situation in global markets is not good, and unfortunately it has adversely affected trade between our countries as well. We spoke about what more could be done to accelerate economic cooperation. I’m sure that the establishment of a free trade area between the Eurasian union and Israel will be an incentive for the development of economic relations.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu also emphasized the strong relations between the two countries, saying, “We concluded a comprehensive, useful, work meeting for both sides..." Turning to Putin, Netanyahu continued, "I would like to thank you for the cooperation in these fields, and all of the fields which we are pushing forward with in a cooperation you described so well: We celebrate 25 years of renewed diplomatic relations between (our) states today. I remember those days. Those first few years and what preceded them. I was at the meeting between Yitzhak Shamir and Andrei Gromyko (Former Soviet Foreign Minister. -ed) in new York. Since then, our relations have systematically and increasingly developed...We will never forget the Russian people and the Red Army’s part in the east, and their part in the west in defeating the Nazis.”
Celebrating the past 25 years of renewed relations, Netanyahu sought to look to the future. “Today we marked the first 25 years of renewed relations. But we focused mainly on looking ahead to the next 25 years. We cooperate in the fields of technology, innovation, high-tech, economics, trade, tourism, and culture and in many other areas," he said. "We determined today that we will have points of cooperation...to tighten Israel and Russia’s technological relations. I also expressed an appreciation (for the fact that) not far from here, there’s a Hebrew language teaching institute supported by the Russian government. I expressed hope that the number of Hebrew speakers in Russia will reach the number of Russian speakers in Israel. It will take a little time, but it’s an expression of our tightening relationship.”
Just moments before the press conference took place, Putin suddenly surprised Netanyahu when he told him to wait so that he could take him for a personal tour around the Kremlin. During the tour, Putin showed Netanyahu the different halls and him various items depicting figures from the bible. He also treated Netanyahu to a history lesson about the Kremlin and about the significance of the various symbols.
The visit was expected to deal with the implementation of understandings Netanyahu reached with the Russian president during the Israeli leader's trip to Russia last April on regional issues, chief amongst them, Syria.
Additionally, an agreement is expected to be signed which will enable citizens who moved from former Soviet Bloc countries to Israel in 1992 to be eligible for Russian pensions. This agreement is meant to fix a historic injustice whereby Jews who left the former Soviet Union were forced to give up their Soviet citizenship, thereby making them unable to receive their pensions.
The agreement has already been signed by Israeli Minister Ze'ev Elkin and The Minister of Labor and Social Protection, Maxim Topilin. The agreement will begin once it is ratified by the Russian courts.
Earlier, Netanyahu and his wife Sarah visited an exhibition entitled "Opening the Door to Israel" at the Manege exhibition hall in central Moscow. The interactive exhibition has nine doors which open up to reveal Israel from different views and angles. The exhibition arrived in Moscow after having been in Rome, Paris, and Warsaw.
The Israeli prime minister spoke at the exhibition, saying "we are marking 25 years since the renewal of relations between us, and (our relations) are not only limited to culture and technology. All of these things are demonstrated in this innovative exhibition. Moreover, there is human bridge of more than one million Russian speakers who the part of the flesh and blood of our country. They also come as ambassadors filled with good intentions and deep sympathy - citizens of Israel who came from the former Soviet Union."
Netanyahu continued, saying "there is a sympathetic and empathetic connection between Israel and Russia, with a joint past filled with tragedy, but with a very strong present to create a better future. My wife, myself, and our entire delegation are very excited to be here."