Israel’s conflict with Palestinians is destabilizing the Middle East more than Iran’s activities, Russia’s Ambassador to Tel Aviv, Anatoly Viktorov, said during an interview with the Jerusalem Post on December 8.
“The problem in the region is not Iranian activities,” Viktorov told the Israeli newspaper. “It’s a lack of understanding between countries and noncompliance with UN resolutions in the Israel-Arab and Israel-Palestinian conflict.”
When asked about the role played by Iranian-backed Shiite groups in the region like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Viktorov saidЖ
“Israel is attacking Hezbollah; Hezbollah is not attacking Israel.”
The Russian ambassador also casted doubt on Hezbollah’s responsibility for the “attack tunnels” dug from Lebanon to northern Israel. The ambassador said there is “no proof Hezbollah created the tunnels.”
Viktorov said Israel is still coordinating its actions in Syria with Russia to insure the safety of Russian service members there. However, he denied that Russia had given Israel a “green light” to attack the worn-torn country.
“There is no way that we are approving any Israeli strikes on Syria, never in the past and never in the future,” the ambassador said.
Viktorov’s remarks angered top Israeli officials, including Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi who spoke out against them in a press conference.
“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,” Ashkenazi said.
The Russian ambassador was summoned on December 10 by head of the Israeli Foreign Ministry Strategic-Diplomatic Department, Alon Bar, who voiced his rejection of the remarks. Bar said the remarks made by Viktorov “did not fit with the reality”. Viktorov allegedly told Bar that his words were taken out of context.
In a letter of clarification, he wrote to the Jerusalem Post, Viktorov said he didn’t mean to imply that Israel was a greater destabilizing factor in the Middle East than Iran.
“Russian-Israeli constructive dialogue is founded on a solid base of partnership in various spheres,” Viktorov wrote. “The Russian Federation will continue to further develop and expand bilateral ties with Israeli counterparts in order to achieve lasting peace and stability in the Middle East for the benefit of the peoples of the region.”
Viktorov’s remarks provoked Israeli officials because it reflects the reality of what’s ongoing in the Middle East more than the official Israeli version of events.
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