On the second day of his official visit to Moscow, President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday met with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and discussed the prospect of expanding bilateral ties between the two states.
Following the meeting, Presidential Residence Director Harel Tobi spoke to Arutz Sheva and summarized the discussion between the two.
"Israel and Russia have a shared interest in maintaining the stability in the north of Israel," he said, noting the front with Lebanon that has been under threat by the Iran-proxy Hezbollah terrorist organization.
"The Russians have been basing themselves in Syria for several months, and the goal of the meeting was to also deal with recent developments," added Tobi, referencing how Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced the withdrawal of most of his forces from Syria.
Noting on Putin's announcement and its timing before his meeting with Rivlin on Wednesday, Tobi said, "we're happy the meeting took place two days afterwards and not two days before. The topic of the meeting was to ensure that the red lines of the state of Israel in the north are not harmed, and President Rivlin clarified that very clearly – and merited great attentiveness from President Putin."
When asked about the conflicting interests between Israel and Russia and the fact that Iran is a leading Russian ally, he said, "we felt that President Putin is loyal to his declaration from 2012 when he obligated to the existential interests of Israel, President Putin listened attentively and responded in a very detailed manner to the Israeli arguments, and I believe that this meeting had very great value."
Russian interest in exports from Israel
In his meeting with Rivlin on Thursday, Medvedev said he wanted to speak about economic issues and bilateral cooperation, at which point Rivlin emphasized, "when such a large percentage of the citizens of our state are Russian speakers, the ties between us have increased and become unbreakable.”
The two spoke about agricultural cooperation and exports as well as taxation issues, and Medvedev said, "I see in the near future a real opportunity to increase trade. Recently, we have encountered export restrictions to Europe, Turkey has left our market and we are open to more exports from Israel."
Efforts for Israel's inclusion in the Eurasian Economic Union were also discussed, as was the matter of a social insurance agreement on pension payments for Russians who made Aliyah to Israel before 1992.
Medvedev called to increase research cooperation, and the two agreed to have the matter raised in future discussions between relevant ministers. Rivlin concluded by saying he hopes to host the Russian Prime Minister in Israel in the near future.
Jewish identity in Russia
Earlier on Thursday Rivlin visited the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, which is dedicated to the history of Jews in Russia up until the break up of the Soviet Union. The Center holds a collection that belonged to the Schneerson Chabad Rabbis.
The President then met members of the Jewish community in Moscow, including leading rabbis and the heads of local Jewish institutions.
"Most Jews in Russia do not associate themselves with their Jewish identity, and this is a huge loss. Out of concern for the future of the Jewish people, we must think how to expand the circle of Jews who identify with Judaism," said Rivlin.
"I am pleased that there are Jews who immigrate to Israel and strengthened the State of Israel, and yet I respect and admire those who choose to live here, and sustain Jewish life here. It is important that former residents of Israel who live all over Russia will maintain continuous and close contact with the Jewish community and the State Israel."
Speaking about his meeting with Putin the day before, Rivlin told the Jewish leaders that "my meetings with President Putin were important and significant for Israel's security."
Mark Neyman / GPO
Rivlin then met with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Krill of Moscow and all Russia. The two spoke at length, and the Patriarch expressed his concern for the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
"I share with you a deep concern for the well being of your community. The Christian community in the Middle East has suffered from terrible persecution and we are proud that Israel has been a safe home for the community, and Christian pilgrims," said Rivlin.
"We understand the importance of the rights and the freedoms of the religious communities and the Christian community of the holy land. We want to see the Christian community flourish and be part of the Israeli experience."
The two discussed ways to improve freedom of worship in the region and in Israel, and to preserve holy sites.
"The Jewish and Christian worlds are enjoying better relations, and we have a duty to maintain open discussions and strong ties," said Rivlin in conclusion.