Israeli PM meets Putin in Moscow, then speaks with Ukraine president by phone

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends the Cybertech TLV conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 3, 2022. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

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JERUSALEM, March 5 (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin on Saturday to discuss the war in Ukraine and later spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Bennett’s spokesperson said.

Bennett is coordinating his efforts in the crisis with the United States, France and Germany, an Israeli official said.

After his meeting with Putin, Bennett headed to Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, his spokesperson said.

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French President Emmanuel Macron had spoken to Bennett before he flew to Moscow to brief him on Macron’s previous conversations with Putin, the Elysée said.

“They will stay in touch with the aim of obtaining a ceasefire, and this in coordination with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz,” an Elysée official said.

Israel, at the behest of Zelenskiy, has been offered to mediate in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, though officials have previously played down expectations of any breakthrough.

In their three-hour meeting in the Kremlin, the Israeli official said, Bennett also raised with Putin the issue of the large Jewish community caught up in the war in Ukraine.

The two leaders also touched on the ongoing talks between world powers, including Russia, and Iran about reviving a 2015 nuclear deal.

Russia said on Saturday that Western sanctions imposed on it over its invasion of Ukraine had become a stumbling block for the Iran nuclear deal. Israel opposes any revival of the deal.

While Israel, a close ally of the United States, has condemned the Russian invasion, voiced solidarity with Kyiv and sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine, he has said it will maintain communications with Moscow in the hope of helping to ease the crisis.

Israel, home to a substantial population of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, is also mindful of Moscow’s military support for President Bashar al-Assad attacks in next-door Syria, where Israel regularly Iranian and Hezbollah military targets. Contacts with Moscow prevent Russian and Israeli forces trading fire by accident. read more

Bennett, a religious Jew, took a flight in violation of Sabbath law because Judaism permits this when the aim is to preserve human life, his spokesperson said.

He was accompanied by his Ukraine-born Housing Minister, Zeev Elkin. Elkin accompanied former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the past as an interpreter in his talks with Putin.

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Additional reporting by Michel Rose in Paris; Writing by Mayan Lubell; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Gareth Jones

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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