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Putin curtails visit to Israel, Palestine — Kremlin

The Russian president will meet with the mother of Naama Issachar, an Israeli national detained in Russia

MOSCOW, January 22. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Israel and Palestine has been curtailed because of the formation of the Russian government. The trip will take one day instead of two, Kremlin Aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters.

"A two-day visit was planned initially. However, because of the situation with our government reshuffle, we curtailed the visit to one day," Ushakov said.

He noted that Moscow "had full understanding of the Israeli side, given that we were able to fit all major events in one day."

The Kremlin aide added that Putin would not be able to attend "the formal dinner for foreign guests this evening arranged by the Israeli president."

Ushakov specified that Putin would be accompanied by Russian Foreign Minister Segey Lavrov and representatives of some other ministries.

The Russian government resigned on January 15. On January 16, Putin appointed Mikhail Mishustin as Russia’s new Prime Minister. On January 21, the decrees on the new composition of the Russian Cabinet were published.

Meeting with mother of detained Israeli

The Russian president will meet with the mother of Naama Issachar, an Israeli national detained in Russia for drug trafficking, and with Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem Theophilos III. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will also take part in the meeting, according to the Kremlin aide.

"It is interesting to note, I think this will get media attention, after the separate talks with [Israeli PM Benjamin] Netanyahu, [Putin] and the Israeli PM will hold a joint meeting with Patriarch of Jerusalem and all Palestine Theophilos III and the mother of Israeli and US citizen Naama Issachar, Yaffa Issachar," the Kremlin aide stated.

Ushakov made no predictions regarding the outcomes of the meeting, noting that "the humanitarian aspect of this issue will be considered during the meeting."

Ushakov recalled that Naama Issachar was charged in Russia with drug possession and trafficking. "In November [2019], when Putin met with Patriarch Theophilos, the patriarch handed over a letter by the woman’s mother to our president. [Israeli] Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly asked for her release, and [Israeli President Reuven] Rivlin sent a special message on this matter," Ushakov stated.

Issachar case

Naama Issachar was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on April 9, 2019 when she was in the airport’s transit zone before boarding a connecting flight to Tel Aviv after arriving from New Delhi. The airport’s security guards found 9.6 grams of cannabis in her luggage.

On October 11, 2019, the Khimki City Court in the Moscow Region found Issachar guilty of drug possession and smuggling (part 1, Article 228 and part 2, Article 229.1 of the Russian Criminal Code) and sentenced her to 7.5 years in a standard regime penal colony. Issachar admitted her guilt of possessing the drug but denied smuggling charges, saying she had no access to her luggage checked in for the transit flight. She claimed she never took drugs and had no idea of how the cannabis could happen to be in her backpack. Moscow Region’s court upheld the verdict on December 19.

Putin is expected to visit Israel on January 23 to attend the Fifth World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem.

Meeting with Mahmoud Abbas

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Aide Yuri Ushakov blamed Washington for undermining international efforts to bring back Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table.

"We believe that the international efforts to restart direct negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis are being undermined by the US unilateral actions," the aide told journalists ahead of the Russian leader’s visit to Israel and Palestine.

Ushakov specified that he means "primarily Washington’s decision to no longer consider Israeli actions a violation of international law, as well as the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syria’s Golan Heights and the relocation of the [US] embassy to Jerusalem."

This topic may be discussed during the negotiations between Putin and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on January 23 in Bethlehem.

The aide disclosed that on January 23, after finishing his business in Israel, the Russian head of state would visit Bethlehem to meet with Abbas.

"We uphold regular political dialogue," Ushakov stated.

He believes that the upcoming negotiations will include "various issues, both of bilateral nature and the situation in the Middle East accentuating the prospect of a Palestinian-Israeli settlement."

"Our position is well known: we endorse the lawful aspirations of the Palestinians, including their right to their own independent state," the aide specified.