NOVO-OGAREVO, December 7 (Itar-Tass) —— Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman agreed with Israeli observers’ assessment of the Duma elections in Russia on December 4 as fair, free and democratic.
Lieberman began his meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with the electoral topic.
“Let me be politically correct. I have come here from Vilnius [where he attended an OSCE ministerial meeting] and was bombarded with questions on the way about what we think of the elections to the Russian Duma. I want to answer all the questions that were asked and that have not been asked yet,” he said.
Israel was “closely watching events in Russia”, he said. “Moreover, our observers were here – a small but very professional group who had been elected themselves and run election headquarters many times. And they certainly know exactly how votes are counted.”
Lieberman noted that he had telephoned the observers and asked about 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.
Lieberman stressed that his meeting with the Russian prime minister three days after the elections “emphasises the importance Russia attaches to our bilateral dialogue”.
“Naturally, this is a very important dialogue for us, but I will not hide the fact that we live in the Middle East and we probably have many questions and there is a difference in approaches to many Middle East topics. But at the same time, the 20-year-long balance of our bilateral relations is certainly positive,” the deputy prime minister said.
In his opinion, contacts between Russia and Israel are “frank and open”.
Putin also noted positive dynamics in Russian-Israeli relations.
“We have a constant dialogue. Relations are evolving, primarily in the economic sphere,” he said.
Putin recalled that bilateral trade turnover between the two countries had increased by 54 percent last year.
“Absolute figures were not as outstanding, but the growth is quite remarkable in percentage points. It will be more modest this year but still the dynamics are positive,” he said.
This year nearly 500,000 Russians visited Israel and more than 100,000 Israelis travelled to Russia.
“I am glad to say that we maintain humanitarian, economic and political relations,” Putin said, adding that this year Russia and Israel are marking the 20th anniversary of restoration of diplomatic relations.