Russia to Open “Small Embassy” in Jerusalem

Five years after the US Embassy move, Russia provides another historic boost to Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital, but at what cost?

By Aviel Schneider | | Topics: Russia, Jerusalem
A view of the Russian compound in Jerusalem. Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked the Israeli government to return the houses and church on the Russian compound to the Russian state. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi /Flash90.

The city of Jerusalem and the foreign ministries of Israel and Russia have quietly signed an important agreement. Accordingly, in exchange for Israeli recognition of the Russian presence in Jerusalem, Moscow will open an “embassy extension” (or “small embassy”) in the Holy City. Five years after the US Embassy move to Jerusalem, Russia is providing another major boost to the city’s international status as the capital of the Jewish state.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and the Russian Foreign Ministry recently reached a historic compromise. The focus is on Russia’s official commitment to set up a consular post in the empty Maalot car park, about 100 meters from our editorial office. In return, the State of Israel will refrain from expropriating the site in favor of the light rail line that runs there and will look for other public transportation solutions. Jerusalem will also withdraw all claims against the Russian Federation, which has not paid taxes and duties required by law on its Jerusalem properties for many years. In addition, the parking garage on Maalot Street (the parking lot under our apartment) will remain operational until the complex is built.

This is where the Russia’s consular office is to be established. Right in front of Israel Today’s guest apartment. Photo: Israel Today

The official Russian complex will provide consular services to residents of Jerusalem and the surrounding area. It will also house a diplomatic residence, giving it higher status than a typical consulate. The agreement provides for construction to be completed within five years, with the possibility of an extension to a decade. The agreement was signed on Jerusalem Day at Mayor Moshe Lion’s office along with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen. The signing ceremony was also attended by Russian Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov and Sergey Makarov representing Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Bogdanov. The agreement states:

“The Russian Federation will construct a complex of buildings that will serve as an extension of the Russian Embassy. The Federal Foreign Office rates this agreement positively. The Russian side has agreed to take the necessary steps to build the complex as soon as possible.”

View of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Ein Karem district of Jerusalem. Photo: Sliman Khader/Flash90

For years, Jerusalem and Moscow were at odds over a number of properties in the Israeli capital. The Kremlin claimed direct ownership of properties established by Russian churches and other institutions in Jerusalem. Israel wanted to accommodate them, but insisted that in this case Moscow would have to retroactively pay taxes on the properties. Moscow refused.

See: Putin Wants Ownership of Jerusalem Churches

In fact, a few years ago Russia officially recognized the western part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but not the eastern and Arab parts. Russia’s pledge to now establish an official diplomatic mission in the capital is of historic importance, as it means that two major powers, the US and Russia, will now have embassy-level diplomatic missions in the Israeli capital. This strengthens Israel’s position in Jerusalem in the shadow of the old partition plan of 1947, which envisaged placing Jerusalem under international control. The official representation of Russia in Jerusalem is a blow to the Palestinians, since Moscow took the step independently of any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians see it as a Judaization of Jerusalem.

View of the “Moskovia” monastery built by the Russian Orthodox Church at the end of the 19th century. This church (originally “Gorny Monastery”) was nicknamed “Moskovia” (Arabic for Moscow) by the local Arab villagers because of its tented roof, similar to other Russian churches. The monastery consists of two churches surrounded by a curtain wall. Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash90.

It should be noted that Israel requires states to open embassies but not consulates. The reason for this is that according to diplomatic rules, consulates are located in central cities, while embassies are always located in capital cities. In that sense, some fear that opening a new mutation like a “small embassy,” or “embassy extension” would be worse than having no embassy in Jerusalem at all. Embassy-style representation (ie. not a full embassy) will allow countries in the future not to go all the way and open a full embassy. On the other hand, a small Russian embassy is a great success in Jerusalem and an important message to other nations that are still influenced by Moscow’s positions.

There are currently four official embassies in Jerusalem: USA, Guatemala, Honduras and Kosovo. Paraguay, Papua New Guinea and probably Hungary too are planning to open embassies in Jerusalem in the near future.


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2 responses to “Russia to Open “Small Embassy” in Jerusalem”

  1. Wolfgang Doerfler says:

    Brilliant that more and more nations are locating their embassies in Jerusalem. Though in these days of Russian brutal warfare against Ukraine, re-asking security issues (Golan) or cooperating with Iran, this “present” of opening an “embassy light” in Jerusalem appears to mee at this stage to benefit Russia more than Israel.

  2. Mark Watkins says:

    Putin reminds me of a Golem, souless, devoid of any truth other that his own demonic goals… Putin does not take a dump without it benefiting him… This is why all of his purported friends, (seriously, even Xi has cut his throat a million times) are the enemies of Yisrael!!! Putin’s day is coming and won’t end well for little vladie…

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