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Russia has asked Israel to return a Russian Orthodox site in the center of Jerusalem to its control.

The two countries have been working on an agreement to return St. Sergius church, an important site for the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, to Russian control in the coming months, Israel’s ambassador to Russia said Tuesday. In a news conference, Ambassador Anna Azari also addressed the possibility of a Middle East peace conference hosted by Moscow.

Russia pressed to host a peace conference last month during a visit by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Israel. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited Moscow on April 17 and sounded confident about a conference.

Azari repeated reservations expressed by Israeli diplomats in the past about talks in Moscow. “We think a meeting in Annapolis and any future conference in Moscow would support our current settlement rather than being a forum where we hold negotiations with Palestinians,” she said. The ambassador also laid out the obstacles to approval of a visa-free regime between the two countries, saying the approval of a new regime rested in the hands of the Knesset. She said that progress could be expected by fall. The new visa agreement had been slated for approval as early as June.

Australia is preparing to take Iran’s president to the International Court of Justice for “incitement to genocide” and Holocaust denial. Kevin Rudd made a pre-election pledge in October that a Labor government would use the 1948 genocide convention to take legal action against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for threatening to “wipe Israel off the map.” “The Iranian president’s repeated extraordinary statements, which are anti-Semitic and expressing a determination to eliminate the modern state of Israel from the map, are appalling by any standards of current international relations,” Rudd told Sky TV on Wednesday. “They are an incitement of international violence.” Also on Wednesday, The Australian newspaper quoted Attorney General Robert McClelland as saying: “The Government considers the comments made by Iranian President Ahmadinejad, calling for the destruction of Israel and questioning the existence of the Holocaust, to be repugnant and offensive. The Government is currently taking advice on this matter. “The alternative to not using these international legal mechanisms is considering wholesale invasion of countries, which itself involves, obviously, expense but more relevantly, of course, the potential for significant loss of life,” McClelland said. Australia is the only country which appears to wish to pursue Ahmadinejad through the international court. According to legal experts, a successful conviction would be difficult to obtain.

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