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7 Oct, 2008 03:13

Return of Tsar's pad to smooth Medvedev-Olmert talks?

Middle East peace and economic cooperation will dominate talks between Russian president Dmitry Medvedev and Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert in Moscow on Tuesday. The Israelis are also expected to offer a gift, or the return, of nine acres of land in the hear

During what is likely to be one of Olmert's last diplomatic visits before he steps down, the two leaders are also expected to discuss Russia's potential arms deals with Israel's neighbours.

Ehud Olmert tendered his resignation last month after a corruption scandal. The formation of a new government has been assigned to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. However, Moscow is not postponing talks until a new cabinet is formed as the talks are considered urgent.

Israel's Defence Ministry has been worried by reports of Russian plans to supply guided missile systems to Iran, the Israeli media said, citing high-ranking Israeli sources. Jerusalem is also worried over Russian intentions to sign a military deal with Syria.

“We'll reiterate issues that raise our special concerns on the most immediate level in our region, such as providing weapons to irresponsible factors whose activities worry us,” said Ehud Olmert in his recent speech in Jerusalem.

After Russian and Syrian leaders met in Sochi in August, the countries' military deal is expected to come soon.

Jerusalem believes that if a Russian missile system is deployed in Syria it “could destabilise the area” and seriously limit Israeli air freedom.

Russian reaction is predictable. If Israel asks Russia not to give weapons to Syria, Russia will most likely stress the necessity of stopping arms trading between Tel Aviv and Georgia, as well as other countries hostile to Russia.

Another sensitive issue to be discussed is Iran. Olmert will urge the Russian authorities to exert their efforts to stop Iran's nuclear program, which is a danger not only to Israel but also to Russia. Israeli sources also mention that Olmert will ask for Russian assistance in talks with the Syrian leadership in the near future.

Aside from burning issues and requests, Ehud Olmert is bringing a present to Russia. Sergei's Courtyard, the Tsar's real estate in Jerusalem, is going to be returned to Russia. According to Israeli newspaper “Maariv”, the estate's destiny was already clear back in 1993 when Israeli authorities promised Putin that they would return it.

Experts say that Russia will use this meeting to strengthen its role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It has already proposed to hold the next peace talks in Moscow later this year, although Israel has yet to agree.