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Date: 25 October 2021
Israeli Prime Minister Arrives In Russia For First Talks With Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Sochi for talks in which these two focused on what their countries had in common. It was an important meeting for the Israeli official. Bennett is seeking to keep cordial ties Putin and Netanyahu had maintained for many years. A bridge between the former prime minister and his successor is Minister Zeev Elkin, an Israeli specialist in Russia affairs.
The two officials met for their first face-to-face talks since Bennett took office. Earlier they had held two phone conversations. Before leaving for Sochi, Israeli officials agreed to recognize tourists vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik V shot as immunized and allow them to enter the country without requiring quarantine, a move pushed by political leadership ahead of meeting between Bennett and Putin. The meeting was scheduled for two hours but it lasted five hours. Both leaders were joined only by Minister Zeev Elkin and a Russian translator. In the past, Elkin, a native Russian speaker, also accompanied Benjamin Netanyahu in his meetings with Putin to provide translation and advice. A top specialist in Russia affairs among Israeli officials, Elkin is a bridge between the two countries. However, he was not the only one to arrive in Sochi. The Israeli delegation also included national security adviser Eyal Hulata, General Avi Gil, and foreign policy adviser Shimrit Meir. The contentious issue was the war in Syria and Iranian entrenchment in the country. Putin told Bennett that the pair had “many problematic issues” to discuss, but also many “points of contact.” Moscow sides with Bashar al-Assad and Iran, but has for years allowed Israel to attack targets in Syria. Nonetheless, Moscow has been at odds with Israel, saying the latter country did not communicate its plans for Syria. Yet the two parties do not have the same interests when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program. In addition, Moscow provides support to Palestinian organizations. Nonetheless, Netanyahu forged friendly relations with Putin, based on seeking accord where possible and avoiding clashes elsewhere. At the Sochi meeting, Putin praised trade with Israel while Bennett talked about the Red Army’s contribution to defeating Nazi Germany and the importance of Russian-speaking Israelis.
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