Lavrov congratulated Israel’s new foreign minister, Eli Cohen

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called his Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen by phone on Tuesday to congratulate him on his inauguration and discuss “bilateral and regional issues” amid the ongoing invasion and bombing of Ukraine over Moscow.

According to an Israeli account of the phone call, Cohen spoke about the importance of the Jewish community in Russia and Russian-speaking Jews in Israel to the relationship between the two countries.

This call, demanded by the Russians, could spoil relations between Cohen and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba. While there was no appeal to Israel from Kuleba’s office, a senior Ukrainian official said Tuesday that Kyiv expects Cohen to postpone or cancel his meeting with Lavrov and talk to him first.

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If Cohen goes ahead and talks to Lavrov first, Kuleba may refuse any calls from Cohen for the foreseeable future, the official noted.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel, Yevhen Korniychuk, said this Israel times The foreign minister’s telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart signaled a change in Israeli policy.

“The Israeli foreign minister has not spoken to Lavrov since the start of the war,” he said, adding that Kiev was unhappy that Cohen continued the phone conversation.

As Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yair Lapid did not speak with Lavrov.

This was reported by an Israeli official Israel times “There is no change in Israel’s policy,” shortly after the phone conversation between Cohen and Lavrov.

Korniychuk added that Israel’s position on the Russian occupation is “uncertain”.

“Unfortunately, we have not heard any condemnation of the mass bombing of our civilians in recent months. Israel differs from our other partners in that it remains silent,” he added.

The representative of Ukraine noted that neither Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba nor Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wanted to talk to Cohen.

According to Israeli sources, Israel asked to speak with Kuleba around noon on Tuesday, shortly before Lavrov spoke with Cohen. Kyiv did not accept the official request.

On Monday, Cohen announced to Israeli diplomats that he would meet with Lavrov the next day. He did not give any information about the planned call with Kuleba.

Critics, including a prominent Republican US senator, saw it as a sign that the new government in Jerusalem was moving in a pro-Kremlin direction on Russia’s February 2022 invasion and war.

New foreign minister Eli Cohen at a ceremony at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on January 2, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The call with Lavrov took place a day after Cohen’s phone conversation with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

According to an Israeli diplomat, Blinken asked Cohen on Monday to convey certain messages to Lavrov, but did not say what they were.

The diplomatic official strongly rejected the idea of ​​Israel changing its policy regarding the Russia-Ukraine war.

At the start of the Russian invasion, then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett repeatedly called Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky to try to use Israel’s business relationship with the two countries to help negotiate a ceasefire to end the war. He even visited Moscow in March 2022, becoming the first foreign leader to meet Putin in person since the invasion began on February 24.

But the initiative did not bear fruit, and the file was shelved a few months later to focus on the domestic political unrest that led to the fall of the Bennett government.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba during an interview with The Associated Press in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 26, 2022. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

The previous government rejected Ukraine’s arms demands, but outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid has repeatedly accused the Kremlin of war crimes and has spoken out against Russia’s invasion. The comments were welcomed by the West but raised tensions with Moscow, even as Jerusalem tried to maintain an image of neutrality.

Israel is sensitive to maintaining the IDF’s ability to operate freely from Russian-controlled skies over Syria to prevent Iranian forces from stationing on Israel’s northern border.

Kyiv has said it needs Israel’s help with air defense technology to counter Russia’s continued attacks on civilian infrastructure.

The Russian invasion stood in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance.

This was reported by Israeli sources Israel times new prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be open to mediation at the request of either side.

In Netanyahu’s last term, before the war, Zelensky asked him to talk to Putin to arrange a discussion, but the Kremlin showed little interest in dialogue with Kiev.

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