[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Thursday, 28 April, 2005, 19:23 GMT 20:23 UK
Putin plays down Israel arms fear
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Russian President Vladimir Putin
The two leaders reportedly agreed to boost intelligence sharing
Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to ease Israeli fears over plans to sell arms to Syria and give assistance to Iran's nuclear programme.

On a historic first trip to the Jewish state by a Kremlin leader, Mr Putin said the arms were not a threat.

But the Russian leader conceded that Iran's nuclear programme must be peaceful and internationally monitored.

Russia and Israel restored ties in 1991, but this visit marks a new phase in relations between the two countries.

Mr Putin met President Moshe Katzav and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, before travelling to Ramallah to meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Friday.

Concern and co-operation

Israel has expressed fears that missiles sold to Syria by Russia could fall into the hands of militant groups.

But the Russian president defended Moscow's planned sale of the Strelets anti-aircraft missiles, saying they were short-range.

"We are not planning to do anything that would upset the balance of forces in the region," Mr Putin said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Pyramids

He added that he had blocked the Russian military from selling the longer-range Iskander missiles to Damascus.

The Russian leader also said Moscow was working to make sure Iran's nuclear capability was used only for peaceful means.

Iran should "abandon all technology to create a full nuclear cycle and also not prevent its nuclear sites from being placed under international control", Mr Putin said.

Following Mr Putin's meeting with Mr Sharon, Israeli media reported that the two countries would set up an instant notification system about terror threats.

"We are strategic allies when it comes to anything to do with [the war against] terror," Mr Putin said, quoted by Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Palestinian hurdles

After talks with Mr Katzav, whose role is largely ceremonial, the two men signed a statement pledging to strive for a "just, lasting and comprehensive settlement in the Middle East".

Mr Putin told reporters that peace could be reached on the basis of the roadmap, the plan co-sponsored by Russia, the US, the UN and the European Union.

"Today there is a chance to end the long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The key to the solution of this conflict lies in continuing the dialogue that started recently," he said.

However, Mr Putin did not reiterate his offer to host a regional peace conference. The proposal has been greeted coolly by Israel and the US, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said later that the proposal had been for a meeting of experts rather than a summit.

Mr Putin's visit to the West Bank on Friday will be another first for a Russian leader, and he will use it to lay a wreath at the grave of the late Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

The Palestinian envoy to Moscow has said Mr Putin will offer to sell 50 armoured vehicles during their talks - another deal opposed by Israel.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The many controversies of Mr Putin's visit



Israel and the Palestinians

KEY STORIES

FEATURES & ANALYSIS

Palestinian women sit on a roof top of the home of a Palestinian family in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on 20 November 2006. Human shields
Palestinians adopt a new tactic to deter Israeli attacks, but this is a high-risk strategy

VIDEO AND AUDIO


PROFILES

 




RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific