The chairwoman of the Russian Federation Council, Valentina Matvienko, visited the Knesset on Wednesday as a guest of Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein. Following a welcome ceremony at Weil Plaza, Matvienko laid a wreath at the foot of the memorial for fallen IDF soldiers, signed the Knesset guestbook and then signed, along with Edelstein, a cooperation agreement between the Knesset and the Russian Federation Council, which is the upper chamber of the Russian parliament.
The agreement states, among other things, that ”the Parties will, under their competence, contribute to development of political, economic, scientific, cultural and humanitarian ties between the Russian Federation and the State of Israel. The Parties will, under their competence, promote parliamentary cooperation between the Russian Federation and the State of Israel through dialogue and consultation to further develop a contractual and legal framework ensuring the improvement of the relationship between the two States in the spheres of mutual interest. The Parties will encourage creating direct ties between representative bodies of constitutive entities of the Russian Federation and districts of the State of Israel”.
The treaty further states that ”The Parties will exchange information on legislative activities and best practices in the law making process, on official publications and documents of mutual interest pursuant to the legislation of the States of the Parties and Regulations of the Parties. With a view to further developing inter-parliamentary ties, the Parties will practice the exchange of visits of delegations, promote closer interaction between relevant committees and commissions of the Parties, cooperation groups of the Parties, Members of the Parliaments of the parties and administrations of the Parties and also further cooperation in other fields mutually agreed upon.”
After signing the agreement, Matvienko and Edelstein held a work meeting with the participation of MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beitenu), who heads the Israel-Russia Parliamentary Friendship Group.
Speaking to the press after the meeting, Edelstein wished a speedy recovery to those who were injured in the terror attack in Jerusalem, which occurred earlier in the day, and addressed a question on the cooperation between Israel and Russia with regards to the situation in Syria. ”This cooperation between our countries is important, particularly in light of the fear that weapons will flow from Syria to Hezbollah,” he said. ”This is not just another organization. It is an enemy of Israel.”
Responding to a question about the stalled peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Edelstein said, ”As Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu has already stated, Israel has no restricting conditions for the launch of negotiations. Russia can assist and promote negotiations, but it seems odd to me that a country located so far away needs to help, while our close neighbors are not helping in the negotiations.”
Matvienko spoke about the cooperation between Israel and Russia and said she was pleased with the ”mechanism that was created during the meeting last summer between President [Vladimir] Putin and Prime Minister Netanyahu with regards to Syria.”
”We are conducting dialogue with Syrian organizations, but we will not allow the transfer of weapons to an organization that wreaks destruction and death,” she stressed.
Asked about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the head of the Russian Federation Council said it must be resolved diplomatically. ”We are concerned about the escalation of the past few months, and we will work towards finding a solution,” Matvienko added.
Later, during the plenary sitting, Speaker Edelstein welcomed the members of the Russian delegation, who were observing the session from the VIP gallery. He mentioned that Israel and Russia are marking 25 years since the renewal of diplomatic relations between them by strengthening relations, ”and this visit is a part of it.”
”Israel and Russia share a long historic legacy of more than 1,000 years, during which rich Jewish life of diverse creativity prospered throughout Russia,” Edelstein said. ”We are deeply familiar with the dramatic role the Red Army played in defeating the Nazis in World War Two. The Jewish and Russian nations fought shoulder to shoulder. About half a million Jewish soldiers fought in the ranks of the Red Army, and some 200,000 of them were killed in action. To this day Israel and the Knesset mark the victory of the Allied Forces, which caused the historic turnaround and stopped the catastrophe.”
”Our history had chapters of conflict, mainly during the Cold War,” Edelstein continued to say. ”Thankfully, this conflict ended and there are good relations between Russia and Israel. We seek to tighten the dialogue on all levels and develop the relations in the areas of economy, culture and more. I hope Russia and Israel will continue to cooperate on many issues that are important to both countries.”