Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will leave on October 17 for a two-day visit to Russia where he will meet with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. This will be Olmert’s first visit to Russia since he took office.
The visit will take place despite recent tensions between Israel and Russia after Russian weapons which were sold to Syria reached Hizballah and caused severe damage to Israel Defense Forces soldiers during the war in Lebanon.
Israel has formally complained to Russia about the issue, especially on the subject of the Kornet anti-tank missile which was sold to the Syrians. The Russians first denied the allegations, but then changed their tune and admitted that their supervision over their weapons sales was lacking. Russia, in turn, sent harsh messages to Syria saying they see the issue of the transfer of weapons to Hizballah as very serious, and the Russians even stopped a shipment of weapons, most likely anti-tank missiles, to Syria because of this issue.
Officials in Israel are concerned about the possibility that Syria and Russia will sign long-term arms deals designed to renew and rehabilitate the Syrian army for a possible future conflict with Israel. Israel will ask Russia to ensure that weapons which could tip the balance of power will not reach Syria until they change their ways and stop openly supporting Palestinian terror groups operating from Damascus.