Olmert’s Mission to Moscow: Iran, Arms Sales and Middle East Peace

Olmert’s Mission to Moscow: Iran, Arms Sales and Middle East Peace

On Oct. 18, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made a one-day jaunt to Moscow for "a last-minute, urgent meeting" with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader had just returned from Tehran, where he had defended Iran's right to develop peaceful nuclear energy while reaffirming Moscow's commitment to nuclear nonproliferation.

Three topics apparently dominated the three-hour private meeting. First, according to Miri Eisin, the prime minister's spokesperson, Olmert urged Putin to support stronger diplomatic and economic sanctions against Iran at the U.N. Security Council. Olmert argued that the international community needs more effective measures to check Tehran's nuclear aspirations, which threaten "the world, including Russia." Many observers, in Israel and elsewhere, fear that Iran's stubborn pursuit of nuclear enrichment technologies reflects a desire to manufacture nuclear weapons.

Putin professed to understand Israeli anxieties regarding Iran. At the photo opportunity before the Kremlin meeting, he remarked: "We know how concerned you are with regards to the issue of Iran's nuclear program. I am ready to share the results of my visit to Tehran with you. In general, we have a lot to talk about, and we are sincerely happy to see you in Moscow." Olmert replied that he looked forward to learning more about Putin's trip to Tehran and sharing his concerns about Iran, the Palestinian question, and other issues. Olmert later told colleagues that Putin left him "with the impression that Russia and Israel have the same sense of the Iranian nuclear threat."

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