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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,
Not so long ago, in June of this year, Mr President and I met in Israel. We attended the unveiling of a memorial in honour of the Red Army’s victory in World War II. Today another joint project was brought to life in Moscow: the opening of the Russian Jewish Museum of Tolerance. I am confident that it will make a contribution to countering xenophobia, nationalism and racial prejudice, and will play a major part in the preservation of historical memory and strengthening accord among nations.
During out talks, we covered virtually all issues on the bilateral agenda. Russian-Israeli relations are on the rise and we are satisfied with their friendly character. Our bilateral trade is modest in absolute terms, but one positive factor is that we have overcome the decline in mutual trade.
We see good prospects in a number of areas of cooperation, including energy, agriculture, high technology and nanotechnology, space exploration and transport infrastructure. Russian specialists have been working since February 2012 on building tunnels for the high-speed railway line from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. We have also talked about various opportunities for cooperation in the social sphere.
In addition, we have discussed key international issues, including the situation in the Middle East, in Syria, and Iran's nuclear programme. We have a common understanding of the need to resolve long-standing conflicts, especially the Arab-Israeli conflict. The only way to settlement is through dialogue and Russia calls on the parties to return to the negotiating table.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that Russia highly values its friendly relations with Israel. I am grateful to Mr President and all our Israeli colleagues who took part in today’s negotiations for the informative and useful conversation.
I would also like to congratulate the President of Israel on being awarded the title of Honorary Professor of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Mr President, this title is in recognition of your contribution to strengthening humanitarian, scientific and educational ties between our countries.
President of Israel Shimon Peres (translated from Russian): Thank you very much.
Mr President, thank you for inviting me to take part in this historic event – this museum’s opening. Let me start by saying that this museum is unique from the architectural point of view. It was a very brave decision to build a museum that unites two such seemingly incompatible things as ancient history and bold modern architecture.
There is no other museum in the world that retells the development over history of the relations between two peoples: a big people – the Russian people, and a small people – the Jewish people. I am amazed at how much effort and energy have gone into this project. This is a unique museum. I thank you from all my heart for your contribution to its founding. I think too, that this museum is a declaration of tolerance and evidence of the thousand-year history between Russia and the Jews, or, more precisely, of the thousand years over which the Russian people has welcomed the Jews to Russia.
It is true that our common history has also known shadows and difficult times, but it remains nonetheless a unique history. I have deep respect for the Russian people. This is a great people, and when I say ‘great’, I am referring not to Russia’s vast size, but to your people’s greatness of soul.
I believe that the entire world is deeply indebted to the Russian people for their superhuman efforts in destroying the Nazi threat. Thirty million Soviet citizens died in that war. They saved the world from disaster. I want to pay tribute to their memory and to the Soviet and Russian peoples for their heroism. The Russian people fought against the Nazis’ massive war machine, not retreating until they had reached the gates of Berlin and liberated the whole world from this most terrible danger that threatened all of humanity.
This was liberation for the world, for humanity, and for my people. The Nazis tried to wipe out my people. They killed 6 million Jews, including 1.5 million children. I thank you as a citizen of the world, and I thank you as a Jew. This victory enabled us to live again and become an independent people once more, a people capable of defending itself, but never forgetting that our greatest goal is peace.
Russia has played a very important part in history, and any objective observer can see that Russia, and you in particular, Mr President, shoulder the responsibility for ensuring that such a war never again happens in our world. This is a very serious responsibility and not simply a question of some political event that will not repeat itself again.
We have the problem of Iran today, which you mentioned earlier. Those who deny the Holocaust can indirectly help to create a new one.
During your visit to Israel you said that Israel’s security is important for Russia, and that Russia will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. Neither we nor you hate Iran, but we and you both want to live in a world without fear, threats, and annihilation.
There is also the very tense situation in Syria. The Syrians are not our enemies, but what is happening now in Syria is a danger for the Syrian people and the entire Middle East. It is hard to see clearly right now who will come to power in Syria. The one thing that is clear is that blood is being spilt there and extremist forces are starting to take power.
Several shells launched from Syria landed on Israeli territory today. For many years we have had quiet on the border with Syria, and we would like this to continue.
I believe that Russia has an important role and that you do too, Mr President. You can stop the bloodshed in Syria and bring peace and security to the region, not only to Syria itself, but to the Middle East as a whole.
As for Israel, we are obliged to defend ourselves. I drank 1948-vintage wine today. It was very good wine. 1948 was the year when the Soviet Union recognised Israel as a sovereign state, the year that you voted for the creation of a Jewish state.