Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia this Monday. The two discussed Middle Eastern peace, the Iranian nuclear threat and Holocaust denial.
With the European Union, the United Nations and the United States, Russia forms a Middle East Quartet dedicated to promoting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Netanyahu declared that his country was prepared to resume peace talks “in the coming weeks.” Russia is expected to host the Quartet’s ministerial meeting later this month.
Iran’s nuclear enrichment was undoubtedly high on the agenda. Last Sunday, the Israeli prime minister called upon the world to impose “crippling” sanctions against Iran. Relations with the United States have been strained since President Barack Obama demanded that Israel freeze settlement construction. Netanyahu appears to be reaching out to Russia now in order to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Russia however has been supplying Iran with military equipment. Before Netanyahu landed in Moscow, the Kremlin asserted that there are no sanctions against its selling of advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran because they are defensive weapons only. Israel for long attempted to prevent the deal from going through.
Netanyahu now asks Russia to support “sanctions with teeth” against Iran’s energy sector. “What is needed now is very tough sanctions that can influence this regime and severe sanctions that will considerably and convincingly harm the import and export of oil,” he told reporters. “Diluted sanctions don’t work.”
Until recently, Russia refused to support tougher sanctions against Iran. In recent days however, officials have indicated that Moscow is willing to adopt a more assertive stance.
President Medvedev emphasized that Israel is no ordinary partner. He spoke about the countries’ historical relations and stressed that the memory of World War II must be preserved in obvious reference to Holocaust deniers. Netanyahu was more explicit and stated that those who challenge or deny the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people must be fought and defeated.