Relations between Israel and Russia received a boost yesterday, as President Boris Yeltsin called for the two countries to put past tensions behind them and visiting Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested that bilateral ties should be raised to the level of a "new partnership" — comparable to that of the U.S. and Israel. Netanyahu, making his first visit to Moscow as prime minister, also met yesterday with Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and the two signed a cooperation and mutual assistance agreement between their respective customs services. Trade was one of several key issues discussed yesterday, as Yeltsin called for an increase in annual trade turnover, estimated to stand currently at over $400 million, while Netanyahu suggested, among other things, that advanced Israeli technology would be of interest to Russia. (Interfax, AP, UPI, March 11) Similar topics were on the agenda during a dinner arranged by Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov on the evening of March 10, which was attended by Russian Security Council deputy secretary Boris Berezovsky, several powerful bankers, and other influential political and media figures. (Interfax, March 10)
Earlier yesterday Netanyahu also visited Moscow’s main Choral Synagogue and addressed a crowd of Russian Jews. Security was reported to be tight as Netanyahu praised the new religious freedom afforded Jews in Russia. In comments likely to anger Palestinians, he also vowed to keep Jerusalem united and under Israeli control. (AP, March 11) More than 650,000 Jews have emigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union since 1989, and both Israeli and Russian leaders have referred increasingly of late to this population as a potential bridge between the two countries. Moscow reestablished diplomatic relations with Israel in 1991, with the launching of the Arab-Israeli peace process.
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