26 May 2009

Leader of the Israel is Our Home party Avigdor Lieberman: Russia-Israel relations must rise to a strategic partnership level

Relations between Russia and Israel must and can rise to a level of strategic partnership, said Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the Israel is Our Home party and a future member of Israel`s new coalition government in an interview with Interfax

"I‘ve been saying all along that relations between Israel and Russia must rise to a level of strategic partnership. This is even more relevant today, then previously," Lieberman said.

The Israel is Our Home party won the third largest number of votes in the parliamentary elections and it is involved in the talks on the formation of Israel‘s new government.

"However paradoxical it may seem, the global economic crisis gives Israel new opportunities to reach the Russian market, after many of the Western companies abandoned it," the Israeli politician said.

Lieberman, who co-chaired the Russian-Israeli intergovernmental commission for trade and economic cooperation in 2003-04, said that, the two countries have accomplished "a real breakthrough" in this area, but the potential is far from being exhausted.

The same refers to military-technical cooperation between Israel and Russia, he said.

"Israel has quite a few things to offer Russia in this sector - from the electronic stuffing for fighter jets to drones," Lieberman said.

He told that Israel would attend an international conference on the Middle East in Moscow.

"Definitely, Israel must and will attend this conference," Lieberman said.

Lieberman is a leader of the party, involved in the talks on the formation of Israel‘s new government.

"Any dialogue would only be welcome, especially when this dialogue is within the framework of the Quartet [of international mediators in the settlement] - Russia, the United States, UN and the European Union," Lieberman said.

"We hope the agenda will be negotiated in advance and we‘ll try to draw the positions nearer in advance. We see Russia as a very important factor, especially in the Middle East," the Israeli politician said.

Moscow will host an international conference on the Middle East in the first half of 2009 in continuation of the Middle East conference in Annapolis, U.S., held in November 2007.

Israeli party leader sees Russia’s contacts with Hamas as legitimization of terror.

Russia must cut short contacts with the Palestinian group Hamas, said the leader of the Israel Is Our Home.

"It appears to me that Russia must assume a far more balanced position. Clearly, its dialogue with Hamas is unacceptable to us," Lieberman said.

Lieberman is leader of a party, which came in third in Israel‘s latest parliamentary polls and which is involved in the talks on the formation of a new government.

"In my opinion, the highest-level reception at the Russian Foreign Ministry, granted to Hamas representatives in Moscow, is tantamount to legitimizing terror," Lieberman said.

"Hamas is a flagrant specimen of a terror organization. Hamas has said ‘No‘ to all of the Quartet‘s demands - to recognize Israel as a state, to recognize all the previous accords between Palestine and Israel, and to repudiate terror," the party leader said. "I therefore think that the invitation and the very presence of the Hamas chiefs in Moscow is a big mistake," he said.

Lieberman stated also that Russia‘s cooperation with Iran in the nuclear energy sector will not bring any benefits either to Russia, or to Israel, said Lieberman.

"Iran is a problem facing the world, not Israel, like North Korea is and Libya was at one time. The moment Iran gains access to nuclear weapons, an insane unconventional arms race will begin in the Middle East. The situation will just get out of control then. This must not be allowed to happen," Lieberman said .

"Efforts must be made to get the Iranian nuclear program frozen by tightening the sanctions and putting more massive pressure on Iran, using both economic and political methods," he said