Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has apologised to Israel’s prime minister Naftali Bennett for remarks widely viewed as anti-Semitic by Moscow’s foreign minister this week, according to Israeli officials.

The apparent bid to mend a growing diplomatic rift between the two states comes after Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Italian television on Sunday that Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky being Jewish did not negate the “Nazi elements” inside Ukraine since “[Adolf] Hitler also had Jewish blood . . . The most ardent anti-Semites are usually Jews.” 

The Putin-Bennett call was made amid Israel’s Independence Day celebrations. According to a statement by the Israeli prime minister’s office, Bennett “accepted President Putin’s apology for Lavrov’s remarks and thanked him for clarifying the president’s attitude towards the Jewish people and the memory of the Holocaust”.

Lavrov’s words had triggered an escalating row between the two governments. Israel’s foreign minister Yair Lapid had called the comments an “unforgivable and outrageous statement and a terrible historical error”. 

“The Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust. The lowest level of racism against the Jews is to accuse the Jews themselves of anti-Semitism,” Lapid said.

Russia’s foreign ministry had in turn responded by describing Lapid’s comment as “anti-historical”, criticising Israel for defending the “neo-Nazi regime” in Kyiv and comparing Zelensky himself to a Jewish collaborator with the Nazi regime in the second world war.

Russia has without evidence tried to justify its assault on Ukraine as a “denazification” operation.

The Kremlin’s readout of Thursday’s call between the two leaders, however, contained no reference to an apology and only trumpeted the upcoming May 9 Victory Day celebration marking the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945 as holding “special significance . . . for the peoples of both countries, who carefully preserve the historical truth about the events of those years and honour the memory of all the fallen, including victims of the Holocaust.”

The Kremlin added that Bennett and Putin discussed the situation in Ukraine, and expressed mutual interest in developing “friendly” relations between the two countries and maintaining useful contacts between the leaders.

Bennett has been reticent about directly condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, leaving the public admonitions to Lapid, who last month slammed Moscow for perpetrating “war crimes” in the town of Bucha.

Israel has also voted against Russia at the United Nations because of the war, and has sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including an Israeli-staffed field hospital. Yet Israel has refused to send Kyiv military equipment, despite repeated public calls by Zelensky.

Israel’s premier has maintained a delicate rhetorical balancing act with respect to the war in a bid to preserve Israeli strategic interests in Syria as well as his attempt to act as a mediator between Putin and Zelensky.

Yet even Bennett, prior to Putin’s apology, publicly berated Lavrov, saying he viewed the Russian comments “with utmost severity”, and that the “use of the Holocaust of the Jewish people as a political tool must cease immediately”.

Source link

By admin

Malcare WordPress Security