President Vladimir Putin: Dear Mr President, ladies and gentlemen.
It gives me great pleasure to be here in Israel once again. This is now my third visit to Israel, but it is my first as President and head of state of Russia.
Relations between our countries have indeed been developing well over the last three years. But still quite recently it was hard to imagine a Russian head of state making an official visit to Israel. That this is now happening is a good sign that indicates the positive changes in the world and in the relations between our countries.
We discussed the possibility of this visit in January this year in Krakow, dear Mr President, and I am very pleased that we have realised our plans so quickly and not postponed them for some later date.
I want to stress right from the outset that we highly value the trust and mutual understanding that is developing between our countries and our peoples. I see today’s visit not only as the expected result of the development of our relations, but also as a starting point for the future. Today we are to discuss priorities for our bilateral business and humanitarian relations and how to strengthen cooperation between Russia and Israel in international and regional affairs.
I fully agree with you, Mr President, that we should improve our coordination in the fight against the greatest threats facing the modern world, threats such as terrorism, extremism and ethnic intolerance.
Our meeting is taking place on the eve of the sixtieth anniversary of victory over Nazism. The Jewish people, like the peoples of our country, suffered immense losses during World War II. Nazi aggression did not break the will of our peoples. Today we should remember once again that our peoples defended shoulder to shoulder their freedom and right to choose their own development path.
The Holocaust is humanity’s everlasting sorrow. The pain of this sorrow cannot be cured or forgotten. The continued work to preserve the historic truth of this tragedy deserves our greatest respect and support.
As a mark of our remembrance of the Holocaust, the President and I will now unveil together a monument to the victims of this monstrous crime. This sculptural composition, the work of the President of the Russian Academy of the Arts, is a gift from our people to the people of Israel.
I would like to note that we plan to celebrate the upcoming anniversary of victory together with President Moshe Katsav and the heads of a number of other countries in Moscow. I am sure that the victory celebrations on May 9 will become another symbol of the international community’s unity in the fight against the threat of terrorism.
Today we must state clearly that there can be no place in the twenty-first century for xenophobia, anti-Semitism or any other manifestations of ethnic and religious intolerance. This is not only our duty before the memory of the millions of people killed by bullets or in the gas chambers, it is also our obligation to future generations.
Developments in the situation in the Middle East will, of course, be a topical subject of discussion during our talks. We think that an opportunity has appeared to finally end the long-running Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Consistent steps to fulfil the recently reached agreements are the key to a political solution for the conflict.
Beginning a peace process, something that was supported by former Israeli president Ezer Weizman, is a very important task. Mr Weizman had great authority not only in his own country but throughout the entire world. I would like to express my sincere condolences to the Israeli people over his recent passing.
In conclusion I want to say that our talks will enable us to reach many practical decisions, both political and economic. Overall, they will help enrich and strengthen the partnership between our two countries.
I would like to take this opportunity to convey my warmest and most sincere greetings to the residents of ancient Jerusalem and to the entire friendly Israeli people.