President Shimon Peres held a working meeting on Monday evening with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two discussed strengthening strategic ties between the two countries, the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the Iranian nuclear issue and the events in Syria and neighboring countries in the Middle East.
The Russian President was received at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem with a festive welcome ceremony which included an honor guard of soldiers and Hebrew and Russian-speaking children who greeted Putin.
At the start of the meeting, Peres spoke about the Iranian nuclear issue and told Putin, “I know that Russia is against the development of weapons of mass destruction in Iran. It is important that this effort not be weakened. A nuclear Iran is a threat to the security and stability of Iran's neighbors and in fact the whole world. Iran’s current leadership openly declares its desire to destroy Israel. We cannot tolerate nuclear weapons in the hands of those who threaten to destroy us. Russia has shown initiative in hosting the latest round of negotiations with Iran in Moscow, while preserving the international unity that is needed. I am confident that under your leadership Russia will fulfill a key role in restoring security and peace.”
President Putin responded by saying, “I want to thank you for your hospitality and for the unveiling of the Red Army monument this morning. The monument emphasizes the fact that we share common humanitarian values - the most solid foundation for cooperation.”
Putin added, “The area in which Israel is located largely affects the feeling of the entire international community. It is the Russian national interest to ensure peace and tranquility for Israel.”
Peres spoke about the presence of non-conventional weapons in Syria and told Putin, “We do not know what will become of Syria, of the leadership and the army. There is a genuine fear that non-conventional Syrian weapons will leak to the hands of terrorist organizations like Hizbullah and Al-Qaeda. I ask you to please work urgently to prevent this intolerable situation.”
Peres added that “Assad ceased to be an alternative the moment he started shooting his children. None of us can stand the sight of coffins with children inside them. It's beyond politics.”
On the issue of the peace process Peres said that there is a clear majority among Israelis in favor of the principle of two states for two peoples and asked Putin to clarify during his meeting with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that he should immediately return to the negotiating table without preconditions.
Putin responded by saying that serious negotiations for peace cannot be promoted without trust between the parties, adding that it is important to quickly restore trust and return to the negotiating table.
Putin also said that he places an importance on maintaining Israel’s security.
Immediately after the meeting, the two presidents attended a special dinner in honor of the Russian President and his delegation. During the dinner, speeches were made by top government officials and high-ranking guests who have contributed to the strengthening of the strategic ties between the countries, including former President Yitzchak Navon, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Minister of Science Daniel Hershkowitz and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
Earlier on Monday, Putin met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. In a joint press conference after the meeting, Netanyahu and Putin said that they hoped the two countries could cooperate more closely in a wide range of areas, especially high-tech, agriculture, and science.
Netanyahu said that he and Putin had discussed the Iran issue, and the recent negotiations between Iran and the six powers, including Russia and the U.S. Netanyahu said that the international community needed to demand an immediate end to Iran's nuclear program and an increase of sanctions against Tehran. In his remarks, Putin said that the negotiations had been “detailed and very useful.”