Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Putin shows flag in Israel, and little more

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TEL AVIV -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin held private consultations on Iran, Egypt and Syria on Monday, the day after Mohammed Morsi became the new Egyptian president.

Putin came to Israel on a one-day private visit during which he and President Shimon Peres inaugurated in Netanya a memorial to honour millions of Soviet soldiers killed during the Second World War, whose sacrifices saved thousands of Jews from extermination in the Holocaust.

In a private luncheon, host Netanyahu, Putin and others discussed the recent Egyptian elections, as well as Iran and Syria. Netanyahu invested much time on Iran and repeated Israel's three conditions for disarming Iran of its nuclear capabilities.

Putin and Netanyahu took note that Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has promised to honour all Egyptian international commitments, including its peace treaty with Israel. Practically speaking, Morsi has no choice. He is trying to consolidate his power base and take back the executive powers he was stripped of by the Egyptian army -- including the military budget and the right to declare war. Morsi is also determined to appoint his own government, without army interference.

Morsi also has to put his house in order economically. Unemployment is high, tourism is almost dead and national income is down to a very dangerous level. Yet, in the presence of Putin, Netanyahu offered the new Egyptian regime help to solve its domestic problems.

Much of luncheon was devoted to Syria. Following the downing of the Turkish fighter jet by Syria, Putin was clear: It may well be that the Turkish plane violated Syria's air space, but the plane should have been warned.

The downing of the jet has raised regional tensions and NATO is to discuss the matter today. After recent Syrian parliamentary elections, where the local Syrian opposition took part, a new Syrian government was formed. Putin is reported to have told Netanyahu that he sees no reason why Russia should intervene in support of a Syrian opposition that is being armed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with the support of Turkey and the U.S.

Conclusion? Syria has become a part of the regional balance of power, and Russia is determined to preserve its influence in Syria.

The same could be said about Iran.

Beyond nice words, there was no real change in Russia's position on Iran.

 

Samuel Segev is the Winnipeg Free

Press Middle East correspondent.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 2012 A11

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About Samuel Segev

Samuel Segev is the Winnipeg Free Press correspondent in the Middle East. He is based in Tel Aviv.

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