Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman
7 december 2011
Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:
Vladimir Putin: Mr Lieberman, I’m glad to see you. Our dialogue is ongoing, and I would like to recall that this year we mark the 20th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations between Israel and Russia. First and foremost, our relations are developing in the economic sphere: last year we had 54% growth. In absolute terms, the growth is not that remarkable, but it is notable in percentage terms. This year the growth has been more modest, but the positive trend continued. This year, about 500,000 Russian citizens have visited Israel.
Avigdor Lieberman: Yes, at least 500,000.
Vladimir Putin: And about 100,000 Israelis have visited Russia.
I’m happy to say that, in general, cultural, economical, and political relations are being expanded and supported. We are happy to see you.
Avigdor Lieberman: Thank you. First of all, the fact that you have found time to meet literally three days after the elections highlights the significance of our bilateral dialogue for Russia.
Second, let me be politically incorrect, as I arrived here from Vilnius and I was buried in questions about our views on the results of the elections to the State Duma. I can answer all questions, both potential questions and those that have been already asked. We monitored everything that happened here very carefully. Moreover, we had our own observers, a very small but competent group, that is to say people who had taken part in elections, had been elected many times, headed campaign headquarters, and they know exactly how votes are counted. I called them and asked about their observations on the fairness of the elections. Their answer was very definite: the elections were very honest, free, and democratic. This is my view, as I rely on my observers.
You’ve mentioned trade, cultural and political relations. It is a very important dialogue for us, I’ll be honest. Perhaps we will have time to discuss the Middle East as well: we have many questions and different approaches to many issues related to the Middle East. At the same time, the overall balance of our 20-year relationship is certainly positive, from the economy and tourism to attitudes toward the lessons of WWII and the memory of the Holocaust. I’m glad that we are having an open and sincere dialogue.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.