Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman criticized Russia’s Middle East policy during a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Wednesday, Army Radio reported, saying that Russia’s support of the Palestinian bid for membership in the U.N. was not helping peace efforts.
“The Russian approach, supporting unilateral moves by the Palestinians, is not helping advance a peace agreement,” Lieberman said while visiting Moscow.
“Supplying advanced weapons to Syria could also lead to consequences that nobody wants,” Lieberman added, referring to a recent report that Russia had supplied Syria with an undisclosed number of supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles, despite the Syrian leadership’s violent eight-month crackdown on dissenters. Syria is a known backer of Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and reportedly supplies both groups with weapons that could potentially be used against Israel. On Tuesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the IDF was monitoring possible Hezbollah arms transfers from Syria into Lebanon. Barak said Hezbollah fears that its weapons stockpile would be in danger should Bashar Assad’s regime fall. Get the Israel Hayom newsletter sent to your mailbox!
Lieberman said that Israel and Russia hold different views on a handful of issues, including Israeli-Palestinian relations and current events in the Middle East, and voiced hope that Russia would afford Israel’s position on Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas the attention it deserves.
Lieberman, however, also noted positive trends in Russian-Israeli relations. “We are in constant dialogue. Relations are evolving, primarily in the economic sphere,” he said. He then invited the Russian prime minister to visit Israel.
Meanwhile, the Russian news agency Itar Tass reported Wednesday that Lieberman described the Dec. 4 parliamentary elections in Russia as “fair, free and democratic,” despite widespread criticism to the contrary.
Israel was “closely watching events in Russia,” Itar Tass quoted Lieberman as telling Putin at the start of their meeting. “Moreover, our observers were here,” he reportedly told the news agency, referring to Israeli observers of the Russian election. “[They are] a small but very professional group who had been elected themselves and have run election headquarters many times. And they certainly know exactly how votes are counted.” Lieberman noted that he had telephoned the observers and asked their opinion of the Duma polls. “Their answer was quite clear: the elections were absolutely fair, free and democratic. This is my opinion because I rely on our observers,” he said.
Observers had said the vote was marred by ballot-stuffing and other irregularities. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had voiced “serious concerns” over the result of the election, which saw Putin retain a majority in parliament, albeit a greatly reduced one.
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