FM Sharon Meets with Russian Parliament Speaker

(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesman)
20 January 1999

Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon met yesterday (Tuesday), 19.1.99, with Russian Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov, at the parliament building in Moscow. Mr. Seleznyov told FM Sharon that the bill to eliminate double taxation between Russia and Israel, the signing of which has been delayed, is expected to be approved in the Duma’s upcoming session.

The meeting focused on political and strategic issues, including the Middle East peace process, with emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian process, bilateral issues and displays of anti-Semitism in Russia.

FM Sharon expressed Israel’s concern over, and opposition to, Russian assistance for Iranian and Iraqi efforts to acquire non-conventional weapons and ballistic missiles. "I come to Russia first and foremost as a Jew and as a representative of the Jewish state. I am here to explain those issues and interests that are vital to the existence of the Jewish state, to security for the Jews in their homeland and wherever they may live," Sharon said.

The foreign minister stressed that his objective during the visit is to strengthen and develop relations between the two countries, especially as he ascribes great importance to Russia which, despite its problems, is a super-power. He also said that he recognizes and understands Russia’s strategic interests in the Middle East. At the same time, FM Sharon made it clear that Russia’s policy needs to be balanced and that it cannot come at the expense of Israel’s security interests. "Without security for the Jews in their one and only small homeland, peace will not be established in the Middle East. Peace and peace agreements must be based on reciprocity and on the fulfillment of all the commitments by the Palestinians or any other party that signs an agreement."

Duma Speaker Seleznyov expressed understanding for Israel’s positions and expressed determined opposition to all displays of anti-Semitism in Russia; he also condemned any such expressions by Russian politicians.

Regarding a unilateral declaration of independence of a Palestinian state, FM Sharon clarified Israel’s position and proposed to Mr. Seleznyov that Russia use its influence and ties in the Arab world to convince the Palestinians not to take such a step, while emphasizing the severe ramifications of such a move, should it occur.

At the close of the meeting, which was held in a friendly and frank atmosphere, FM Sharon informed Mr. Seleznyov that Israel is prepared to develop and expand relations with Russia, and to extend aid in any sphere in which it is asked to do so — on the basis of reciprocity and with maximum consideration given to the interests of both countries.

FM Sharon invited Speaker Seleznyov to visit Israel at any time.