Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett made a surprise visit to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, during which the two discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and negotiations to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, in what could be a new avenue for a diplomatic solution to the war unfolding in Europe after previous efforts have failed.
Bennett spoke over the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after the three-hour meeting with Putin and then headed to Berlin to meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, his office said.
An Israeli official told Reuters that Bennett is working with the United States, France and Germany to manage the crisis in Ukraine, with Israel potentially in a good position to be a mediator given its strong alliance with the U.S. and a relationship it’s built with the Kremlin while coordinating with Russian troops in Syria over Israeli airstrikes there against Hezbollah.
Bennett and Putin also discussed efforts in Vienna to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, to which Bennett expressed Israel’s long-standing opposition.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov threw up a hurdle Saturday with talks believed to be near a conclusion, saying Russia wanted the U.S. to guarantee that Western economic sanctions on Russia would not cover any trade with Iran.
Lavrov’s comments came shortly after Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency said they had agreed to a “practical and pragmatic approach” to resolve outstanding issues about the country’s nuclear program by the end of June.
A State Department Spokesperson told Forbes that the sanctions the U.S. has imposed on Russia for its attack on Ukraine “should not have any impact” on the revival of the 2015 nuclear accord.
Israel has spoken out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and provided humanitarian aid to that country, but it is also maintaining its relationship with Russia. Israel has urged world leaders to take a tougher position against Iran’s nuclear activities, and has long opposed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, arguing it didn’t make Iran fully stop its nuclear program. In 2018, then-President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the accord and reimposed harsh economic sanctions on Iran. Iran responded by enriching uranium above the limits agreed in the accord. Last October, President Joe Biden pledged that if the U.S. returned to the Iran nuclear accord, it would only withdraw in the event Iran breaks the deal.
Bennett is an observant Jew, and his trip violated the religion’s ban on travel on the Sabbath, but his spokesperson cited the Jewish dictum that it was permissible to violate religious precepts to save human lives.
Israeli PM meets Putin in Moscow, then speaks with Zelenskiy by phone (Reuters)
Russia says West’s sanctions create a ‘problem’ for Iran nuclear deal (Reuters)
original source: Israeli Prime Minister Makes Surprise Visit To Moscow In New Attempt To Halt War In Ukraine