President Vladimir Putin: Mr Prime Minister,
I would like to start by saying how pleased we are to see you here on precisely this day – the day that marks 15 years since the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Russia. Relations between the Russian Federation and Israel have reached a completely new level over recent years. They have become more trusting. We have fundamentally changed our attitudes toward our compatriots. We consider those who left Russia and the former Soviet republics to take up permanent residence in Israel as our compatriots. Today we think, not without reason, that they are a major resource in further improving the relations between our two countries.
Our bilateral trade is increasing and now approaches a figure of $2 billion. We are in constant contact on political issues and our cooperation has expanded to include even as sensitive an area as military-technical cooperation, including in markets in third countries. Our colleagues on both sides will soon be meeting when the Russian-Israeli Intergovernmental Commission holds its session. The legal foundation for our cooperation is also being strengthened.
Your predecessor, Mr Sharon, with whom I and many of my colleagues had very good working and personal relations, played a huge part in taking our relations to this new level. We are all very upset by what has happened to him and we hope that our relations with the new Israeli leadership will be just as businesslike, warm and productive. Of course, we hope to exchange views with you on the situation unfolding in the region. Russia is ready to do everything within its power to make its contribution to resolving the situation. I recall very well our meeting a year-and-a-half ago in Tel Aviv. The months since then have been filled with quite dramatic events.
We are very happy, Mr Prime Minister, that you have accepted our invitation to come to Moscow. Welcome!
Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Olmert:
Thank you very much, Mr President,
I am very grateful to you for inviting me to this meeting. On this day, as we celebrate the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries, we can say with confidence that over the years that you have been in office as President of Russia, relations between our two countries have taken a new direction. This is thanks to your own efforts as President and also thanks, of course, to the close links that you forged with Ariel Sharon. He valued very highly the relation he had with you.
I remember the last meeting when you met with Mr Sharon. I was present at the dinner that the Israeli Prime Minister held in your honour. I remember the important things that you said to us then about the nature of relations between Russia and Israel and about your personal commitment to ensuring that Russia’s relations with the countries of the Middle East would never again be one-sided. I very much value your position on this issue and I think that we can continue to build on the foundation that exists now, the foundation that you and Prime Minister Sharon created.
Over these last years I have done a lot to promote cooperation together with my friend, Mr Reiman, in order to expand the cooperation between our countries in all different areas. I am very pleased that this cooperation is now also expanding into security issues.
Russia has an influential and very important role in the world. I have no doubts that we will exchange views and analyse the situation regarding issues of vital importance for the Middle East. Russia’s influence, the influence it has both today and in the future, is important in helping to bring stability to all the areas of concern to us, in particular the Iranian problem. This is an issue of concern and it is, of course, an especially sensitive issue for us.
Once more, I would like to thank you for your attitude and for the particular sensitivity you have shown towards the representatives of my people living here in Russia. And those who lived here and now live in Israel, they know it is their country and they will make a big contribution to making Israel stronger.
I am very grateful for this invitation to come to Moscow and for the hospitality with which you have received me.