Russian-Israeli relations. To the upcoming visit of Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon

Russia and Israel re-established consular relations in 1987, and fully resumed diplomatic relations in October of 1991. December of the same year saw the opening of an Israeli embassy in Moscow and of a Soviet /Russian/ embassy in Tel Aviv.

Emigration of Jews to Israel and the fact that the country has a large /about 1 million people/ Russian community is an important factor of bilateral relations.

The two countries constantly exchange delegations, at the top level as well as at the others. In March of 1999, Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu paid a working visit to Moscow. On April 22nd and 23rd, Russia's Foreign Minister visited Israel in the framework of his Mideastern tour.

The Israeli government, which Ehud Barak formed in July of 1999, announced that to strengthen ties with Russia was a priority task. On August 2nd, 1999, Premier Ehud Barak visited Moscow. On December 2nd, 1999, Israel's Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Levi paid a working visit to Moscow.

On January 5-7th, 2000, Russia's first President Boris Yeltsin visited Israel in the framework of the celebration of the 2000th year of Christianity. Yeltsin and his delegation, which comprised Igor Ivanov and other top officials, held meetings with Israeli President Ezer Weizman and Vice Premier Yitzhak Mordechai. On January 31st-February 2nd, 2000, Levi was in Moscow attending a plenary session of the Group for Promoting Multilateral Talks in the Mideast.

A meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Premier Ehud Barak, which was arranged in the framework of the Millennium Summit in New York in September of 2000 helped increase mutual understanding at the top level.

In October and November of 2000, the effort of the Russian diplomatic corps to ease tensions and overcome the crisis in Palestinian-Israeli relations resulted in Igor Ivanov's two visits to Israel.

On January 23-25th, Israeli President Moshe Katzav paid an official visit to Russia. He had an audience with Vladimir Putin and meetings with Premier Mikhail Kasyanov, speakers of both houses of the Federal Assembly Yegor Stroyev and Gennady Seleznyov, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexis II.

On May 20-22nd, 2001, Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon was in Moscow meeting with Vladimir Putin, Premier Mikhail Kasyanov, and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

On September 3-6th, 2001, Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon came to Russia to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, Premier Mikhail Kasyanov, and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

Political dialogue between the two countries, including that which takes place in the framework of a bilateral Mideastern Committee set up by Russia and Israel's foreign ministries, covers a wide scope of issues.

The following intergovernmental agreements exist between the two countries:

- on air traffic /1993/;

- on trade and economic cooperation /1994/;

- on scientific-and-technical cooperation /1994/;

- on cooperation in the filed of agriculture and associated industries /1994/;

- on cooperation in the field of healthcare and medical science /1994/;

- on cooperation in the field of culture and education /1994/;

- on cooperation in the filed of tourism /1994/;

- on cooperation in the field of postal and electric communication /1995/;

- on cooperation and mutual help in customs affairs /1997/;

- on cooperation in the framework of combating crime /1997/;

- on creation and conditions of functioning of cultural centers /1996/;

- on special measures to ensure the safety of civil aviation /1997/;

- Convention on Prevention of Double Taxation and Measures to Provide against Evasion of Income Taxes /1994/;

- on the terms and procedure of issuing visas for owners of business and diplomatic passports /2002/.

The sides are currently busy reconciling the drafts of a memorandum on consular issues and agreements on encouragement and protection of investments, on legal assistance and legal relations in civil and family affairs, on cooperation in research and use of space for peaceful purposes, on cooperation in the field of combating illegal financial operations, etc.

In 1995, Russia and Israel signed a Memorandum on Mutual Understanding in Military Cooperation, which envisages development of contacts and exchange of delegations between the defence ministries of the two countries.

On August 13th, 1998, the sides signed an interministerial Memorandum on Mutual Understanding in Cooperation in the Field of Perfecting of Professional and Language Training of Diplomatic Personnel. On March 25th, 1999, they added an intergovernmental Program of Cultural Cooperation in 1999-2001 to the Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Culture and Education.

In 2001, according to preliminary information, the volume of commercial operations between Russia and Israel reached 938.7 million dollars. Israel retains an interest in development of economic links with Russia.

In June of 1995, Moscow hosted the first session of a Joint Russian-Israeli Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation. The second and third sessions took place in Israel and Moscow on November of 1997 and January of 2000 respectively. The issues discussed included the prospects for launching large joint economic projects in the fuel and energy complex, industrial and transport construction /including the possible construction of a subway system in Tel Aviv/, telecommunications, medicine and medical industry, aircraft industry, and space exploration.

In 1998 and in December of 2000 Israel launched its satellites Tehsat-2 and EROS-A1 with the help of Russian rocket launchers. The launch of Russia's space vehicle Spektr-Rentgen-Gamma with an Israeli ultraviolet telescope Tauvex has been postponed until 2003 because of financial difficulties.

A number of joint agro-industrial projects have been realised on Russian territory.

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