MOSCOW (Jan. 20)
Visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon has made clear to his Russian hosts that the Jewish state is concerned about the recent rise in anti-Semitism in Russia and the deepening ties between Russia and Iran.
At a news conference in Moscow after talks with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov, Sharon praised Russia for its favorable attitude toward the country’s Jews.
But he added that continued unchecked anti-Semitism could affect relations between Israel and Russia.
Last fall, two Russian legislators from the Communist Party made a series of anti-Semitic comments. Drawing international condemnation as well as criticism from President Boris Yeltsin’s government, the Russian Parliament failed to condemn those remarks.
Sharon, visiting Russia for three days this week, also made clear his desire for Russian Jews to immigrate to Israel.
“We have no intentions to use anti-Semitism to spur up aliyah,” Sharon said at the news conference. But just the same, Sharon added, “I’m appealing to Russian Jews through the mass media: repatriate to Israel.”
In response to Israel’s concerns over anti-Semitism, Ivanov said he hoped it would not mar bilateral relations.
In response to reports earlier this month that Moscow is offering sensitive missile technology to Iran, Ivanov repeated Russia’s commitment to the non- proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Sharon said Israel would continue to press Russia over its cooperation with Iran because Israel still believes that weapons information and technologies are making their way from Russia to the Islamic republic.
Sources in Israel indicated on the eve of Sharon’s visit that Russian-Iranian ties have assumed geo-strategic proportions ever since Yevgeny Primakov became Russian prime minister in September.
During his visit, Sharon also said Russia could play an important role in the Middle East peace process — particularly by using its long-standing ties with Syria and Lebanon.