Olmert meets with Medvedev for talks on security worries

Other News Materials 7 October 2008 22:14 (UTC +04:00)

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with Russian Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday for sensitive talks on Iran's nuclear programme and Russian arms sales to country's in the Middle East, dpa reported.

Medvedev told journalist at the meeting that Russia was intent on expanding its role as one of the Quartet of international negotiators in Middle East peace talks, news agency Interfax reported.

Moscow has expressed ambitions to host a peace conference as a follow-up to the US-sponsored Annapolis conference last year.

Analysts saw the meeting as an effort by Moscow to balance its ties in the Middle East after having hosted Syrian President Bashar Assad and King Abdullah of Jordan, and amid the diplomatic fallout over its war with Georgia.

In the run-up to Olmert's visit, Israel seemed to be on its best behaviour in relations with Russia, and analysts speculated the goodwill measure were part of a diplomatic efforts to discourage Moscow from arms sales to Iran and Syria.

"Russia is a world power and its say on regional and global issues is extremely important, from Israel's point of view," Olmert was quoted by Interfax as saying meeting with Medvedev.

The Israeli government said it would return a Tsarist-era building, the Sergey Courtyard, in Jerusalem to Russia on the eve of Olmert's visit.

And the Israeli government ordered a ban on arms sales to Georgia after Russia accused it of selling spy drones to Georgia used against it in for reconnaissance in the August conflict.

Olmert was expected to have pressure Russia against selling high- grade S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Syria and Iran and to improve checks that current arms shipments do not go to Hezbollah guerrillas, who battled Israel in Lebanon in 2006.

Olmert, who is making the visit despite his resignation two weeks ago amid corruption allegations, also met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

But Russia's powerful former president Vladimir Putin, whom many believe still holds the reins at the Kremlin, was not in Moscow to meet with the Israeli premier.

The meeting Tuesday brought no change in Russia's opposition to further UN sanctions against Iran for its nuclear programme, which Israel and the United States believe is a cover for ambitions to build atomic weapons.