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Putin hails talks with Israeli PM, wants to strengthen ties

Russia will strengthen cooperation with Israel in anti-terrorism fight, contribute to the settlement of the Palestino-Israeli conflict, Putin says
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin Mikhail Metzel/TASS
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin
© Mikhail Metzel/TASS

MOSCOW, June 7. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has called open and constructive his talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier in the day.

"We discussed the whole range of bilateral cooperation issues," the president told reporters after the talks.

He said the current visit of the Israeli prime minister was timed to mark 25 years since the two countries restored diplomatic relations, adding that the Soviet Union was the first country to recognize Israel.

Cooperation between the two countries has been developing productively and dynamically over the past 25 years, he said.

"Planning for the future, we can base ourselves upon a strong foundation of trust and understanding," the Russian president added.

Energy cooperation

Moscow is ready to develop energy cooperation with Israel, Putin said.

Speaking to journalists after the talks, the Russian leader reminded about a project of Russian gas supplies to Israel. "But after our Israeli friends found their own gas on the shelf, this project vanished, which is only natural," he said.

However, in his words, "cooperation in the energy sector is possible." He cited as an example a small project of equipping Israel’s social transport with liquefied gas. "Such cooperation will be useful for us with an eye of adopting such technologies here," Putin said.

"We can and we are looking at possible cooperation in other areas," he added.

Netanyahu in his turn stated absence of legal restrictions for participation of Russian companies in energy projects in Israel.

"There aren’t any legal restrictions for participation of Russian companies in development of gas projects in Israel. Our problem was to approve the decision that would enable us to expand and develop our fields by no matter what companies. We have managed to solve it. Our doors are open for all companies including Russia," he said.

Netanyahu called on Russian companies to take active part "in all competitions" for energy projects.

Under current law, the government of Israel can redirect gas volumes that were already contracted by foreign customers to the domestic market. The prices on domestic market are regulated by the state.

Earlier, Vedomosti daily reported that Gazprom is no longer interested in participating in the project on development of the Leviathan field, offshore Israel. A few years ago, the company was in talks to buy 30% of the project from a consortium that includes the Israeli Delek Drilling (22.67%), Avner Oil & Gas (22.67%) and Ratio (15%), as well as the American Noble Energy (39.66%). The Leviathan field was discovered in 2010 and is located not far from the Tamar field which is already being developed by the consortium. The reserves of Leviathan are estimated at 620 billion cubic meters of gas.

Anti-terrorism efforts 

 Russia will strengthen cooperation with Israel in anti-terrorism fight, Putin added.

"We spoke about the necessity to pool efforts to counter international terrorism," Putin told journalists. "Israel knows only too well what it means and it is fighting against terrorism. In this sense, we are unconditional allies.".

 The Palestino-Israeli conflict

Putin said Moscow will contribute to the settlement of the Palestino-Israeli conflict.

"We speak for overwhelming and just settlement of the Palestino-Israeli conflict," Putin told journalists after talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He said "active joint efforts, including in the framework of the Middle East Quartet, are in demand now."

"Russia is ready to take part in that work," Putin underscored.

He said different international problems were discussed at the talks, including "the difficult situation in the Middle East region, including Syria."

"We also confirmed our principled position on the issue of solid peace in the Middle East, including the Palestinian track," Putin said.

Israel-EAEU free trade zone

Substantive talks on establishing a zone of free trade between Israel and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) will start this year, Putin said.

Trade and economic ties of the two countries have seen an influence of unfavorable factors, but setting up a zone of free trade between the EAEU and Israel could be an incentive for development, Putin said.

"Substantive talks on this will be launched this year," the Russian leader said, adding that he had discussed the issue at a recent summit of the EAEU, an economic union bringing together Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.

 Turkish-Israeli talks

Putin said that Russia had a positive attitude towards Turkish-Israeli negotiations on restoration of diplomatic.

"Our attitude is exclusively positive," Putin said after the Russian-Israeli talks.

"We believe that any movement of countries and peoples towards each other will ultimately produce a positive impact on the international situation in general," the Russian leader stressed. "The fewer problems there are among states, the better. We welcome this process," Putin concluded.

Tourism sphere

Putin believes the number of Russian tourists travelling to Israel will grow in the years to come.

"Israel is one of the most popular tourist destinations for the Russians. I think the number of our tourists in Israel will grow," the Russian head of state told journalists after talks with Netanyahu.

Putin said that humanitarian ties would remain a priority area of interaction for both countries given that 1.5 million former citizens of Russia and the ex-Soviet republics reside in Israel. "We will step up cooperation in education," the Russian leader said. He added that 440 Israeli nationals are currently studying in Russia, including 110 students who do not pay for their tuition - the money comes from the Russian state budget. Exchange programs for students and teachers are under way.

Cooperation in the agricultural sphere

Israeli agrarians may boost their presence on the Russian market, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday after talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Putin said Russia and Israel are in for "good prospects" for interaction in the sphere of agriculture.

"Israeli producers may substantially boost their presence on the Russian market," he said.

 WWII history

Russia and Israel will pool efforts to counter attempts to revise the history of World War II, Putin said. 

"We are speaking about a very sensitive subject - the memory of World War II," Putin told journalists.

"Our peoples fought together against Nazism and paid a huge prize for the victory," Putin stressed. "That is why we must and will keep the memory of the heroes and victims of that war, we will counter attempts to revise its results, to forget the tragedy of Holocaust."