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Netanyahu offers to discuss White House’s ‘deal of the century’ with Putin

The Israeli PM thanked the Russian president for his swift decision on pardoning Naama Issachar
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Mikhail Metzel/TASS
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
© Mikhail Metzel/TASS

MOSCOW, January 30. /TASS/. At their meeting in the Kremlin on Thursday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the US "deal of the century" on ironing out the Middle Eastern crisis, showing interest in the Russian leader’s stance on this issue.

"Mr. President, you are the first leader whom I meet after my visit to Washington and [the unveiling of] Trump’s plan. I think we have an opportunity today [to discuss this issue], I would like to talk to you and listen to your opinion and see how we can join all forces for peace and calm [in the region]," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu recalled that earlier he had held "talks with his US friends." "And I can tell you about some things related to this," he noted.

The Israeli prime minister noted that his current visit to Moscow "symbolizes strengthening relations between the two countries." He also thanked Putin for "his leading role in the Middle East" as well as for his recent visit to Jerusalem and the "touching" speech at the ceremony to inaugurate a monument to the victims of the Leningrad siege during the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945).

Netanyahu recalled that during Putin’s visit to Jerusalem the sides were able to discuss problems facing the Middle Eastern region.

Putin also thanked Netanyahu for opening the monument in Jerusalem dedicated to the victims of the siege of Leningrad. "The monument was very worthy and the place where it was built is excellent and the procedure [the opening ceremony] was very impressing and emotional," Putin noted. The Russian leader also praised the January 23 international events in Jerusalem dedicated to the Holocaust victims.

Speaking on Russian-Israeli economic ties, Putin recalled that Israel was in talks with the Eurasian Economic Union on a free trade zone. "Our bilateral ties are developing in economic and humanitarian fields," Putin said, noting that Netanyahu had initiated some areas of this cooperation, which is rapidly developing. "I’m glad to have an opportunity to discuss with you the issues of our cooperation as well as the situation in the [Middle Eastern] region," he noted.

"Deal of the century"

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday unveiled the key points of the so-called "deal of the century," a plan for Israel-Palestine settlement based on mutual recognition of both states. The US offers to link the Palestinian territories of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank with a tunnel, also proposing to recognize East Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital.

At the same time, Trump has stressed that Jerusalem remains Israel's "undivided capital," adding that the US intends to recognize Israeli sovereignty over Jewish settlements founded on Palestinian territories. Among the preconditions for the peace process, the US leader listed Palestine denouncing the Hamas radical movement active in Gaza and ceasing military activity. The US offers Palestine $50 bln in investments.

Netanyahu supported the initiative and expressed his readiness to start negotiations immediately. President of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas denounced the proposition blasting it as a "conspiracy deal," while the Hamas movement stressed that the plan is "not worth the ink it was written with."

Pardoning Naama Issachar

Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Vladimir Putin for a quick decision on pardoning Israeli national Naama Issachar, who was sentenced in Russia on drug smuggling charges.

"I would like to thank you on behalf of all Israeli people for your quick decision to release Naama Issachar. This is a thing that is so touching for all of us. We express our gratitude to you from the bottom of our heart and from all Israeli nationals," Netanyahu told Putin at the meeting in Moscow.

In his turn, Putin asked Netanyahu to convey his best wishes to the pardoned Israeli woman. The Russian leader noted that the patriarch of Jerusalem, who had brought him a letter from Issachar’s mother, played a special role in solving this issue. "Please convey the best wishes to her, her family and her mother," Putin told Netanyahu.

The Kremlin press service reported on Wednesday that Putin had pardoned Issachar, who was serving a sentence in Russia for drug smuggling. In his decree, Putin said the pardon was "guided by the principles of humanity." Earlier on Thursday, Issachar walked free from the colony.

Naama Issachar, an Israeli and US national, 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, Section 228 and Part 2, Section 229.1 of the Russian Criminal Code) and sentenced her to 7.5 years in a standard regime penal colony.