Russia wants control of Jerusalem church


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.


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