Russia’s arms trade does not destabilize Middle East – Lavrov

Russian-Israeli relations are at their best ever, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said after a meeting with his Russian counterpart. But the main focus of the meeting was the Middle East peace process.

This is Lieberman’s first visit to Russia after taking office at the end of March.

Apart from bilateral ties, the ministers have also discussed such issues as the Middle East peace process and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Both Russia and Israel have spoken out on their diplomatic concerns in the Middle East.

Lieberman said he was very disappointed over Sergey Lavrov’s recent meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Mashal in Syria, but Russia insists that ignoring Hamas is not going to help move the talks forward.

Lavrov said it was essential that Middle East Quartet negotiations should continue.

Lieberman acknowledged that it would take the efforts of all interested parties to resume talks, though added that his hopes are to build ties with the Arab world.

Russia was also asked about its arms trade in the region and whether it is something that Israel should be concerned about.

“Russia doesn’t sell any weapons through intermediaries. Our military cooperation with the west is strictly in accordance with domestic laws and international regulations. As for arms supplies to the Middle East, our main role is to prevent destabilization and preserve the existing balance of forces,” Sergey Lavrov responded.

As for Iran, Israel would want Russia to press the country into stopping its nuclear work. Israel is worried that Iran is developing an atomic weapon under the guise of a peaceful nuclear program.

Russia, on the other hand, is helping Iran to build its first atomic power plant.

That is the issue on which Russia and Israel do not quite see eye to eye, though Sergey Lavrov did stress that it is absolutely necessary to make sure that Iran’s nuclear program is indeed peaceful.

Israel’s relationship with the new US administration was also discussed.

“The US, just like any other state in the world, protects its interests, including in the Middle East. In our case both the US and Israel share a common approach and democratic interests based on human and cultural principles. This collaboration is simply natural,” Lieberman said.

The two also discussed such issues as cultural exchanges and holding a ‘Year of Russia in Israel’.

The sides have agreed to pool efforts against the falsification of history and also to celebrate the 65th anniversary of victory in World War II.

"We discussed such a complex and important theme as joint counteraction to attempts to falsify history, bearing in mind the attempts to deny the tragedy of the Holocaust, to obliterate the memory of those who freed Europe from fascism, and to glorify accomplices to Nazi rule," Sergei Lavrov told a news conference after the talks. "We are determined to counteract neo-Nazism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia, and agreed to prepare joint events in the run-up to the 65th anniversary of the victory to be marked in 2010."

The ministers decided to prepare a meeting of the intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation, which would boost cooperation in state-of-the-art technologies and innovation projects.

On Tuesday, Avigdor Lieberman confirmed Israel’s readiness to participate in the preparation and staging of a Middle East Conference in Moscow, planned for late summer or autumn.