Putin to visit Israel

Russian President Vladimir Putin is to visit Israel at the end of April – becoming the first Russian or Soviet leader to do so.

    The Russian president is to hold talks on Middle East peace

    "Israeli President Moshe Katsav invited Mr Putin personally on 27 January when they met in Poland and the Russian president will be welcomed with all the honours due to someone of his status," said Katsav's spokesman Ron Ben Ishai.

     

    During the trip, Putin is to meet Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other senior Israeli officials for talks on advancing Middle East peace talks.

     

    Sources in Moscow confirmed the planned trip to Aljazeera.

     

    Middle East peace

     

    Russia is a member of the so-called Quartet of international mediators for the Middle East peacemaking, along with the United Nations, the United States and the European Union.

     

    "It is impossible to settle the Israeli-Arab conflict without reviving the movement toward peace between Israel, Syria and Lebanon on a solid platform of international law, including the Beirut peace initiative"

    Vladimir Putin, Russian President

    It was not clear if Putin would also meet Palestinian officials.

     

    On Tuesday, Putin urged Israel to back the Middle East peace initiatives pushed by Arab leaders who are gathered in Algeria for a two-day summit.

     

    "It is impossible to settle the Israeli-Arab conflict without reviving the movement toward peace between Israel, Syria and Lebanon on a solid platform of international law, including the Beirut peace initiative," Putin said in a message to participants at the summit.

     

    Bilateral ties

     

    Israeli-Russian relations have improved greatly in the past 15 years since the fall of the Soviet Union.

     

    However, ties between the two countries have been strained in recent months over a Russian decision to supply Israel's neighbour Syria with advanced missiles.

     

    Sharon has visited Moscow three
    times since taking office in 2001

    Moscow has since said it is prepared to allow Israeli experts to check that the weapons will pose no danger to the Jewish state's security.

     

    Government sources quoted in Israel's Haaretz newspaper said Putin's trip would demonstrate relations between the two countries had not been damaged by the planned weapons sale.

     

    Sharon, who is of Russian descent, has visited Moscow three times since taking office in 2001.

     

    Before being elected president of Russia, Putin visited the Jewish state in 1996 and 1997.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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