Israel's Sharon never visited Russia in 2004, although he was a frequent guest in Moscow before
President Putin is going to visit the Middle East. Russian president's first visit to the region is slated to take place at the end of April. The program includes official visits to Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian autonomy. According to the current plan, President Putin is to visit Cairo first, after that the Russian leader will go to Israel and complete the Mideastern tour in Palestine's Ramallah.
The Russian Security Council is taking a very active part in preparations for the visit. The council's secretary, Igor Ivanov, visited Egypt and Israel on March 13th and 18th respectively to coordinate details of Putin's forthcoming visit, Vremya Novostei reports. In the meantime, Aleksei Miller, the chairman of the Russian giant Gazprom, is expected to visit Cairo today. Gazprom will probably participate in the project to build a gas pipeline to Europe, France in particular, via the territory of Mideastern states.
The Israeli part of Putin's trip in the Middle East will be rather important against the background of worsening relations between Russia and Israel. The problem occurred over Russia's intention to sell anti-aircraft systems to Syria, which Israel is at enmity with.
Israeli and Russian media outlets wrote that the relations between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (77) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (52) had taken a turn for the worse before the scandal with arms deliveries took place. Sharon never visited Russia in 2004, although he was a frequent guest in Moscow before.
”There are certain things that we are concerned about, about the issues of anti-Semitism in particular,” Ariel Sharon stated two days ago. The Israeli premier expressed his appreciation of Putin's efforts to confront anti-Semitism in Russia, although he immediately added that anti-Semitic sentiments in Russia were still growing.
The Israeli administration reportedly intends to touch upon the issue of Russia's cooperation with Iran and Syria during Putin's visit to Jerusalem. The fact of the visit does not at all mean that the issue is closed. Russian defense officials tried to prove to the administration of Israel that the above-mentioned anti-aircraft systems would not put Israel in danger. It was particularly said that the location of the anti-aircraft systems in Syria would be strictly specified and coordinated. In addition, Russian specialists said, it was absolutely impossible to remove missiles from the anti-aircraft emplacements so that extremists could subsequently use them for their subversive activities against Israel.
The regulation of the conflict in the Middle East and Russia's mediation in the process to reconcile Israel and Palestine will be another highly important subject of Putin's visit to Israel. Vladimir Putin will have a meeting with the new Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Analysts believe that Russian president's visit to the Middle East will definitely increase Russia's role in the region.
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