29 january 2009

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with President Shimon Peres of the State of Israel

Transcript of the start of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Mr President, I am very glad to see you. This is an opportunity to exchange opinions on the regional situation and our bilateral relations.

It is with great attention and alarm that we are following current developments. Naturally, we have reacted optimistically to the decision of Israel and HAMAS to conclude a cease-fire agreement. We understand the entire complexity and tenseness of the current situation. We hope very much that conditions for positive development will be created.

At the same time, I would like to note the sustained development of Russian-Israeli relations. This applies above all to the development of tourism. We are very pleased to note that the concerned departments are thinking of ways to diversify our relations.

Our Governments maintain permanent contacts. And we hope that we will retain the same dynamics in our relations in bilateral and multilateral formats.

Shimon Peres: (as translated) Thank you very much.

Just like Russia, Israel is not always doing everything it would like to. It is absolutely obvious that we desire peace. Naturally, we do not want any clashes to happen in the Gaza Strip. The situation in Gaza was not our choice. We were forced to do what we are doing there.

They have killed 1,260 Israeli citizens and launched 5,000 missiles against civilians. People were unable to sleep at night. This scared and terrorised everyone, particularly children.

We have displayed restraint until the population started protesting and even rioting. Right now, we have virtually withdrawn from Gaza which is not being occupied. We are currently implementing a restoration programme. We have allocated $20 million for the restoration and rebuilding of homes and greenhouses for growing vegetables and flowers. All border crossings have been opened. We are determined to turn Gaza into the same kind of prosperous entity as Singapore. And we will exert efforts to expand cooperation with all our neighbours.