President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
Our talks with Prime Minister of Israel, Mr Netanyahu, just ended. I can say at once that they took place in a very open, trusting atmosphere. We discussed both our bilateral contacts and intergovernmental ones, as well as the situation in the Middle East.
I would like to point out immediately that our relationship with Israel is both friendly and mutually beneficial. You know that just recently, on May 9, we celebrated Victory over Nazism Day. We are grateful to Israel’s leaders for their nation’s attitude to the memory of victims who died fighting Nazism, including those who lived in the Soviet Union.
Our bilateral economic ties are growing stronger. There are problems in this respect, first and foremost relating to insufficient mutual investments; those can certainly increase significantly. In this respect we have good prospects in the wide variety of areas in which we cooperate. Our agencies and ministries – emergencies ministries, health ministries and others – work closely together.
Tourist visits are increasing. After the abolition of visa requirements, the number of Russian tourists increased many times over, and last year it reached 300,000.
Our relations in the humanitarian, educational and cultural spheres are developing. In February 2013 a successful Russian culture festival was held in Tel Aviv and Haifa.
Ties between our various regions are growing stronger. In February 2013, the Russian city of Gelendzhik, close to Sochi (where we are today), was twinned with the Israeli city of Netanya.
Of course today we talked a lot about regional security problems. The situation in Syria is a particular concern. My colleague and I agree that continuing the armed conflict in the country is fraught with disastrous consequences for both Syria and the region. Only by quickly ending the armed struggle and arriving at a political settlement can we prevent a very negative outcome.
In this crucial period it is especially important to avoid actions that could destabilise the situation. Mr Prime Minister and I agreed to stay in contact: both in personal contact and via our organisations and special services.
I am grateful to Mr Prime Minister for accepting our invitation and travelling to Russia today. Thank you.
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu (re-translated): Thank you Mr President for your invitation and the warm welcome.
You described relations between Israel and Russia absolutely correctly. Our various relationships are getting closer and stronger all the time.
We discussed developing and strengthening our ties in science, culture and economics. Jews, immigrants from the CIS countries living in Israel, play an important part in these relations and their future. And the great role the Russian people played in stopping Nazi Germany and facilitating victory over it is our shared history. A great many Jews fought in the Red Army. So when you celebrate Victory Day here on May 9, in our country, in another part of the world, we also celebrate that day and salute your contribution to the victory over Nazi Germany.
The fact that the State of Israel was founded is what enables Jews to defend themselves against those who continue to try to destroy us. We aspire to peace with all our neighbours. We managed to reach peace agreements with two of them, and I hope that this will be the case with others too; naturally, we also want to preserve what we already have. But unfortunately, we have learned from experience, and you also know, that peace can only be concluded with the strong, only with those who are able to defend themselves. Our job is to protect our citizens, and we always do so.
We had very detailed and in-depth conversations about the situation in our region. Together we are trying to find a way to strengthen stability and security there. This is important to us, and it is important to you. And we have a wonderful, historically-founded opportunity to talk directly with one another, to explain our position clearly, and to try and realise common goals.
I very much appreciate the time you devoted to us, the very warm and friendly welcome, and the great opportunity to come here, two hours away from Tel Aviv, to where you will soon host the next Winter Olympics. And I want to take this opportunity to wish you every success.
From what I saw during my short visit, I want to say that you could not have chosen a better place to hold the Olympics.
Thank you very much.