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Liberman: Repairing Russia-Ukraine Relations an Israeli Priority

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman to meet with new Ukrainian PM, but refuses to take sides; urges reconciliation between Moscow, Kiev.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 4/22/2014, 3:31 PM

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman
Flash 90

Israel and Ukraine are attempting to rekindle diplomatic relations, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) announced Tuesday, ahead of the embattled country's May 25 elections. 

Liberman will be meeting with Ukrainian MP Petro Poroshenko in Jerusalem Wednesday, according to Walla! News. The move will be one of Israel's first forays into the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, which began several months ago and culminated in the ouster of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych. 

But in announcing the news Tuesday, the Foreign Minister stressed that Israel is not taking sides. 

"I would love if I could do something to help Ukraine and Russia to return them to good diplomatic relations," Liberman said. "The sooner it happens the better."

"Russia as well as Ukraine are both good friends of Israel," he continued. "Many expatriates from both countries live here. Assisting Russia and Ukraine in smoothing over diplomatic tensions is a priority for Israel's foreign policy now."

Liberman clarified that Israeli overtures to either country has been delayed to avoid souring relations with both Russia on the one hand and the West, which largely supports Ukraine in its struggle against Moscow, on the other. 

"I hope that the citizens of Russia and Ukraine will restore their relationship as soon as possible," he concluded, adding, "It will serve the interest of the whole world."

Eastern Ukraine in particular has been the seat of pro-Russian tensions since earlier this month, when neighboring Crimea held a controversial referendum vote and was annexed by Moscow after a de facto military invasion of the region.

landmark deal reached Thursday night between Russia, the US and the European Union (EU) called for the separatists, who have been seizing government buildings in eastern Ukraine for several days, to disarm and stand down - in exchange for amnesty. 

The pro-Russian protestors have largely ignored the deal, however, claiming early Friday that the agreement does not apply to them.