Foreign Minister Levy Meets New Russian Ambassador

(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesman)
August 5, 1997

Foreign Minister David Levy met yesterday (Monday), 4.8.97, with the new Russian Ambassador to Israel, Mikhail Bogdanov. The two men exchanged ideas regarding relations between the two countries, the peace process, the Middle East situation and Russia’s relations with countries in the region.

Ambassador Bogdanov expressed Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s and Foreign Minister Yevgeni Primakov’s condolences regarding the terrorist attack in Mahane Yehuda. The Ambassador noted both the shock felt by Russia and its government over the attack, and their hope for cooperation with Israel in the fight against terrorism.

Foreign Minister Levy expressed his thanks for the Russian government’s condolences, as well as for its vote at the recent special session of the UN General Assembly on Har Homa. Foreign Minister Levy noted the importance of Russia’s vote, and said that it was appropriate in light of Russia’s status as a sponsor of the peace process and its responsibility as an international power. Russia’s vote was a signal to those involved that the solution of disputes and conflict lies around the negotiating table.

Ambassador Bogdanov noted his government’s optimism regarding the possibility of resuming the peace process and expressed his hope that Foreign Minister Levy’s visit to Cairo today (Tuesday), 5.8.97, will help Israel and the Palestinian Authority to quickly return to the talks. The Foreign Minister emphasized that the Israeli government’s policies and decisions following the attack are aimed at fighting terrorism and increasing cooperation with the Palestinian Authority. Israel’s policy is not intended to harm Palestinians.

Foreign Minister Levy added that granting sanctuary to terrorism ultimately harms the one giving that sanctuary, and that the Palestinian Authority must show responsibility and determination in the war against terrorism. The Foreign Minister expressed hope that Egypt and other international elements would help pass this message on to the Palestinians.

The two men also discussed the negotiations with Syria. Foreign Minister Levy emphasized the importance of achieving peace with Syria and said that the peace process would not be complete until relations were established between the two countries. The Foreign Minister expressed the hope that Damascus would conduct a re-evaluation and would return to the negotiating table. He said that while Israel is prepared to take risks, an atmosphere of trust and dialogue must be created at all levels of the negotiations.

The Foreign Minister mentioned Israel’s concerns regarding Iran’s rearmament and the cooperation it is receiving from various countries. Israel is concerned over Iran’s attempts to obtain up-to-date arms, including ground-to-ground missiles. The cooperation Iran is receiving from various countries endangers not only Israel, but the entire region and many other countries in the world as well.

Foreign Minister Levy expressed the hope that Russia would act to influence and moderate the relevant parties in order to prevent this existential threat which crosses borders and peoples.