Russia defends envoy amid Israel’s ire over criticism of Tel Aviv
Speaking to Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post on December 8, Russia’s Ambassador to Tel Aviv Anatoly Viktorov said the regime’s conflict with Palestine and other Arab countries, not Iran, is the root cause of instability in the Middle East.
“The problem in the region is not Iranian activities,” he said. “It’s a lack of understanding between countries and non-compliance with UN resolutions in the Israel-Arab and Israel-Palestinian conflict.”
Viktorov also blamed the Israel for fueling violence in the region through conducting airstrikes on Syria.
“Israel is attacking Hezbollah, Hezbollah is not attacking Israel,” he said, adding that Tel Aviv should not attack “the territories of sovereign UN members.”
The Russian ambassador further referred to the tunnels under Lebanon’s border with the occupied territories, which Tel Aviv claims to have been dug by the Hezbollah resistance movement, saying there was “no proof Hezbollah created the tunnels.”
The Israeli foreign ministry summoned Viktorov and said that he was “seriously reprimanded” for his interview by Alon Bar, the ministry’s political director.
“Bar rejected out of hand the comments published in the interview and emphasized that they are inconsistent with the reality in the Middle East,” a foreign ministry statement read.
Israel expects dialogue with Russia to “relate to reality and the threats Israel faces, and not to outrageous and dangerously false illusions,” it added.
Moreover, Israeli foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi said, “I think it was made clear beyond all doubt that Israel does not accept these statements, and thus I hope we will bring an end to such embarrassing and unacceptable statements between us and Russia, and in general.”
On Friday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova described Israel’s reaction to the interview as oversensitive.
“We are confused by the overly sensitive reaction to the issues touched upon in the interview of our ambassadors to Israel. The position presented in it has been repeatedly communicated to Israeli colleagues on various levels. All statements by the Russian ambassador quoted in the publication are in line with Russia’s well-known position on the Middle East,” she said in a statement.
Russia has always underlined that the issue of Palestine is central for ensuring peace and stability in the Middle East, Zakharova stressed, saying, “For our part, we are ready to provide every support possible in attaining this goal.”
She also noted that Russia has never concealed its negative attitude towards Israel’s airstrikes on Syria.
“It is hard to deny that such actions further destabilize the complicated regional situation,” she said.