Russians deal Lieberman 'slap' by endorsing Goldstone

Russians deal Lieberman 'slap' by endorsing Goldstone

Israel relayed a sharply worded protest to the Russian government following Russia's vote in favor of adopting the Goldstone report at the Human Rights Council in Geneva Friday, according to senior Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman suffered a personal blow by the Russian vote, which went against the promises he received from his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, days prior to the vote at the United Nations body, Haaretz repoted.

Russian officials clarified that Moscow would oppose any discussion of the Goldstone report by the UN Security Council, Israel Radio reported on Sunday night.

Russia's envoy to Israel met over the weekend with Foreign Ministry official Pinchas Avivi to hand him a letter of clarification from Lavrov about Russia's vote at the Human Rights Council, according to Israel Radio.

Sources at the Foreign Ministry, however, said that the Russians' behavior was tantamount to a "slap in the face for Lieberman," whose policy has been based on a "strategic dialogue" with Russia.

Notwithstanding his disappointment, Lieberman was careful not to attack the government in Moscow publicly. Other countries who were critical of Israel, such as Sweden, Norway, Turkey and China, were slammed by Lieberman.

However, Lieberman opted to keep a low profile, as he did earlier this year when Lavrov met with senior figures from Hamas. His office also refused to comment on this report.

Following the vote in Geneva Friday, the Russian government sought to appease Israel and Lavrov sent a message to Lieberman clarifying the Russian stance in the vote. However, a source in the Foreign Ministry said that Lieberman refused to accept the Russian's message.

In the end the message was relayed by the Russian ambassador to Israel to the deputy director for Euro-Asian affairs at the Foreign Ministry, Pini Avivi.

During the meeting with the Russian ambassador, Avivi relayed Israel's protest on its vote with regards to the Goldstone report. He said that "you could have joined the group of countries who voted against or abstained," adding that "we were very hurt by your behavior, especially following the assurances you had given us on the matter."

The Russian ambassador said that he had been asked by Lavrov to relay a series of messages regarding the Russian vote. He said that Russia voted in favor because it had no choice, and went as far as to blame the European Union.

"We sought to moderate the wording of the resolution but we failed because of the stance of Western countries," the Russian ambassador claimed.

He also said that even though Russia supported the resolution on the adoption of the Goldstone report, it opposes the transfer of the matter to the Security Council or the commencement of legal action at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. The Russian diplomat added that Moscow believes that "Israel should investigate itself," and reiterated that the most important things is for "the peace process not to be damaged."

The Russian ambassador also charged that the Goldstone report contains statements that "are unsubstantiated and are subjective."

Senior Foreign Ministry officials said that Lieberman had been personally insulted by the Russian vote. Since the release of the Goldstone report a month ago, Lieberman spoke some 10 times with Lavrov and asked that Moscow not support the report.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also spoke prior to the vote with President Dmitry Medvedev.

Senior Israeli officials said that other Russian figures relayed to Israel positive messages on the issue, and had even made promises on not voting in favor of the report.

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