07:13 GMT06 July 2020
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    On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Sochi. These are the highlights of the meeting, as disclosed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

    Netanyahu traveled to Sochi just days before the September 17 snap parliamentary elections in Israel. The snap vote was called after Netanyahu failed to form a coalition government after the April elections.

    Back in April, the Israeli prime minister similarly paid a pre-election visit to Russia. He held talks with Putin and also took part in a ceremony for the return of the remains of Israeli Sgt. Zachary Baumel, who had been missing since 1982 and whose body was recovered by the Russian military in Syria.


    The two leaders discussed the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, with emphasis on the Syrian settlement, and agreed to continue the military dialogue, Lavrov told reporters.

    "From international issues, we focused on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, with emphasis on the Syrian settlement," Lavrov said, adding that the Israeli prime minister “explained in detail” his concerns about threats Israel perceives to its national security.

    In particular, Israel and Russia have agreed on the need to respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity “in practice.”

    "We stressed, emphasized, the need – and here the Israelis fully agree with us – to ensure real, in practice, not only in words, respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic. And in this sense, we on our part highlighted the issues of assisting the Syrian authorities and the Syrians on the whole in their returning to peaceful life," Lavrov said.

    The foreign minister said Russia informed Israel about steps it is taking to “support the efforts of the Syrian government in its fight against terrorists, who still remain in the Idlib zone, and promote issues related to humanitarian assistance and facilitation of the political process in the context of the formation of the constitutional committee."

    He also said that, in his opinion, Israel agrees with Russia that sanctions imposed by the US and the EU on the Syrian government are counterproductive.

    "We, in my opinion, found understanding from our Israeli counterparts on these issues," the minister said.


    According to Lavrov, Putin and Netanyahu paid great attention to bilateral cooperation between the two countries, “primarily in trade.” The two leaders discussed making preparations for the next meeting of the intergovernmental commission before the year is out, he said.

    "Great attention was paid to bilateral cooperation, primarily in the trade and economic sphere. The sides talked about preparing the next meeting of the intergovernmental commission by the end of this year," Lavrov said.

    During the upcoming meeting, the two sides will discuss easing customs procedures and streamlining bilateral clearance of goods.

    In addition to the commission meeting, the two countries will conduct a business forum in a bid to promote direct contacts between both countries’ entrepreneurs.

    The two leaders also agreed to boost trade talks between Israel and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which includes Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

    "The parties expressed a wish to boost adjusting agreements on a free trade area between Israel and the Eurasian Economic Union," Lavrov told reporters.

    Elections in Israel

    During the meeting, Putin commented on the upcoming snap elections in Israel, saying that Russia hopes that the voting will bring “responsible” lawmakers to the Knesset.

    "It is well known that Israel is home to over 1.5 million former citizens of the Soviet Union ... Certainly, we are not indifferent to what kind of people will be elected to the Israeli parliament. We very much hope that these will be responsible politicians who, in any case, will preserve everything that has been achieved in bilateral relations in recent years and move forward with us on the path of development of Russian-Israeli relations," Putin said at the meeting.

    World War II Victory 75th Anniversary

    Speaking to journalists, Lavrov said Russia expected Israeli leaders to attend the upcoming 75th WWII victory anniversary on 9 May next year.

    "Of course, we are expecting the leaders of Israel for the 75th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War on Red Square on May 9. And the Israeli leadership reaffirms its commitment to all those events that are designed to perpetuate the memory of the heroes," Lavrov said.

    Putin reportedly also accepted an invitation to visit Israel early next year to participate in commemorative events on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Soviet liberation of prisoners at the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz.

    This was the third visit Netanyahu made to Russia since the beginning of this year. In 2018, relations between the two countries were put to test after a Russian military plane was downed by a Syrian rocket because of Israeli jets’ maneuvering, for which Russia held Israel responsible.


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