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Viewing cable 10MOSCOW392, IRAN DOMINATES NETANYAHU'S VISIT TO MOSCOW

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10MOSCOW392 2010-02-22 11:11 2010-11-28 18:06 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow
VZCZCXRO9554
PP RUEHBC RUEHDBU RUEHKUK RUEHTRO
DE RUEHMO #0392/01 0531132
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 221132Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6552
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 2246
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 0342
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 000392 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/21/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL RS IR
SUBJECT: IRAN DOMINATES NETANYAHU'S VISIT TO MOSCOW 
 
Classified By: Acting Political Minister Counselor Eric Green for reaso 
ns 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1.  (C) Summary:  In a two-day visit to Moscow, PM Netanyahu 
pressed his case on Iran while the GOR was more focused on 
trade than the MEPP.  The Israeli PM downplayed disagreements 
over Hamas and welcomed government initiatives to help 
crisis-depleted economic relations.  Netanyahu came away 
pleasantly surprised with Moscow's tougher attitude towards 
Tehran and the GOR's willingness to countenance sanctions, 
even though disagreement remains on their content.  Israeli 
contacts are confident Russia will not deliver the S-300s to 
Iran anytime soon.  End Summary. 
 
---------------------- 
A Special Relationship 
---------------------- 
 
2.  (C) In his first official visit to Russia, PM Netanyahu 
met with President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin as well 
as leaders from Russia's Jewish community.  Both sides 
described this as a productive visit with "frank but positive 
discussions." 
 
3.  (C) Israeli DCM Roi Rosenblit said Netanyahu's visit 
emphasized the "special relationship" between Israel and 
Russia.  He indicated that this the connection between the 
two countries has flourished in the past year.  Thanks to 
visa free travel, 400,000 Russian tourists travelled to 
Israel in 2009. 
 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
Bilateral Economic and Cultural Ties Increasing 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
4.  (C) According to Dmitri Lebedov, Second Secretary in the 
MFA's Israel and Palestine Department, there was some 
discussion of economic issues, including cooperation in 
nanotechnology, agriculture, tourism and banking.  The 
Russian-Israeli Bilateral Economic and Trade Commission last 
met in November 2009.  The commission is planning another 
meeting in 2010 in Jersusalem although a date has not yet 
been selected.  Lebedev noted that Putin has agreed to visit 
Israel in 2010. 
 
5.  (C) Rosenblit said both sides blamed the economic crisis 
for the decrease in bilateral trade in 2009 which affected 
Israeli imports of both raw diamonds and petrochemicals. 
Both sides are looking for ways to diversify trade to include 
more agricultural products.  Rosenblit noted that Russia was 
very interested in attracting Israeli investment, citing a 
bilateral agreement on industrial research and development 
which gives both governments the ability to finance joint 
start-ups. 
 
6.  (C) Elaborating on economics issues, Rosenblit said that 
Netanyahu and Putin discussed energy issues.  Rosenblit said 
that Israel had discussed with Russia and Turkey the 
possibility of extending to Israel a gas pipeline but this 
proposal became unnecessary after Israel found offshore gas 
reserves in Haifa.  Although Gazprom is still interested in 
building facilities in Haifa and aiding in distribution, 
Rosenblit said this was now a question for the private 
sector.   Rosenblit also claimed that an agreement was 
reached to launch a bilateral agricultural business forum in 
Moscow, possibly in March 2010.  This would also be a private 
effort, but under governmental auspices.  He also said that 
there was some discussion about future outer space 
cooperation for peaceful purposes. 
 
7.  (C) Rosenblit claimed that the 65th anniversary of World 
War II and Holocaust remembrance were high on the agenda.  He 
said that both the GOI and the GOR are unhappy with recent 
attempts to revise the history of these events.  He noted 
that a Holocaust Museum will be built in Russia and a 
commemorative site recognizing the Red Army's role in WWII 
will be constructed in Israel.  Rosenblit also said that PM 
Putin invited President Peres to the May 9 Victory Day 
ceremonies in Moscow later this year.  Medevedev also 
reportedly green lighted the idea of a cultural program 
including a "Year of Russia in Israel" and "Year of Israel in 
Russia" exchange. 
 
------------------------------------------- 
Middle East Peace Not High on Either Agenda 
------------------------------------------- 
 
8.  (C) According to Rosenblit, MEPP was not thoroughly 
discussed and he "doubted that the Moscow Conference 
specifically was mentioned."  Rosenblit also downplayed the 
 
MOSCOW 00000392  002 OF 003 
 
 
recent visits of Abbas and Meshaal and the importance 
attached to them by the Russians.  He said that he believed 
Georgia was of greater importance to Russia than Syria, 
Lebanon or Palestine. 
 
9. (C) Rosenblit said that Netanyahu emphasized his openness 
to talks between the GOR and the Palestinians because he 
welcomed any way to bring them back to negotiations.  "We 
wanted everyone to tell Abbas to return to negotiations 
because we can't give him a deal until he sits down."  He 
noted that Israel prefers direct contacts but supports any 
kind of negotiations.  Rosenblit said that Israel still 
insists on talks without preconditions and no interim 
agreements: "Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed." 
Rosenblit said that Israel supported Russia's efforts to 
achieve comprehensive negotiations including Syria and 
Lebanon. 
 
10.  (C) Referring to the recent visit to Moscow of Khaled 
Meshaal, Netanyahu told his interlocutors that Hamas should 
not be legitimized by other countries.  Although Meshaal had 
only a 15 minute meeting with Lavrov, it received significant 
coverage in the media.  Rosenblit said Medvedev asked what 
Russia could do to help with Hamas.  Netanyahu repeated that 
Israel does not see Hamas as a legitimate partner but would 
use the Russia-Hamas channel to discuss humanitarian issues 
such as the proposed prisoner swap for IDF soldier Gilad 
Shalit. 
 
------------------------ 
Closer than Ever on Iran 
------------------------ 
 
11. (C) Lebedov sought to downplay discussions of Iran saying 
that, while it was discussed, other bilateral issues took up 
most of the discussions. 
 
12. (C) Rosenblit, however, claimed that Iran was clearly at 
the top of Israel's agenda for this visit.  He said Netanyahu 
was "keen to form a group of like-minded parties" who 
recognized the danger of Iran's program and would cooperate 
to stop its "militant nuclearlization."  Netanyahu emphasized 
that Israel believes that once Iran has nuclear capabilities, 
other regional powers will immediately seek their own nuclear 
weapons.  Because of this danger, and the threat from Tehran 
itself, Netanyahu urged Russia to cooperate on tougher 
sanctions against Iran. 
 
13. (C) The Israeli side, according to Rosenblit, was 
pleasantly surprised at Russia's harsh tone on Iran which had 
changed dramatically even since FM Lieberman's visit in 
November.  "We heard words from them that we've never heard 
before," Rosenblit claimed, "and we aren't hearing the same 
old arguments."  Rosenblit credited this change to the 
Iranians themselves, saying that their rejection of the TRR 
proposal and their decision to enrich to 20 percent had 
toughened Russia's stance on Iran.  He remarked that just a 
few months ago, there was concern in Israel that Iran would 
divide the international community, but Iran's actions have 
only served as a unifying factor. "Russia's understanding of 
the Iranian nuclear issue is closer to ours than it was a few 
months ago." 
 
-------------------------- 
Ready to Discuss Sanctions 
-------------------------- 
 
14.  (C) On the issue of sanctions, Netanyahu reportedly 
handed the GOR a list of areas where Israel felt sanctions 
could affect change in Iran's behavior.  The list included 
restrictions on Iranian exports of energy products; Iranian 
imports of refined petroleum products; the financial and 
banking sectors; and, shipping and aerospace companies.  He 
noted that, while Russia was ready to discuss sanctions, the 
two did not necessarily see eye to eye on the specifics. 
Both sides did agree, however, that the UNSC had to agree on 
sanctions.  Rosenblit said that Russian officials do not 
believe that unilateral sanctions will have the desired 
effect.  They believe that the international community has to 
maintain united and either agree to impose or not impose 
sanctions. 
 
15.  (C) Netanyahu encouraged Russia to be an example for 
China regarding sanctions.  Rosenblit said both Israel and 
Russia had been working bilaterally with China to convince 
them that it was time for a serious discussion on sanctions. 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
S-300s: No Quid Pro Quo, but We Trust Medevedev 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
 
MOSCOW 00000392  003 OF 003 
 
 
16.  (C) When asked about media reports citing Netanyahu 
himself which suggested that Israel had agreed not to restart 
arms deals with Georgia in exchange for Russia's continued 
inaction on the S-300s contract with Iran, Lebedov noted 
that, in spite of this statement, there had been no change in 
the GOR's policy.  He claimed that fulfillment of the S-300s 
contract remained a political decision.  He remarked that the 
S-300 system was itself defensive in nature and could not be 
used against another party, such as Israel. 
 
17.  (C) Rosenblit also would not acknowledge that a deal had 
been made.  Instead, he said that Netanyahu had reiterated 
his trust in Medvedev regarding the S-300s.  According to 
Rosenblit, Netanyahu believes that Russia has taken "all 
aspects of regional stability" into account when taking 
decisions on the S-300s.  Rosenblit did note that the S-300s 
issue offered a window onto the different vectors in Russian 
foreign policy, with the contradictory statements that their 
delivery was imminent, and the delay being caused by 
technical and political issues, coming just days before 
Netanyahu's visit. 
 
18.  (C) Rosenblit said that neither Russia nor Israel was 
linking the S-300 issue with arms sales to Georgia.  Israel, 
he claimed, as a Russian partner, was "listening attentively" 
to Russia's concerns about weapons supplies to Georgia and 
the effects this could have in the region.  Israel has 
friendly relations with Georgia but the Russian relationship 
was also very important, he said.  He indicated that both 
sides were trying to come to an "understanding." 
 
19.  (C) Comment: The Russian media built up the Prime 
Minster's visit as the final stage of Russia's 
Abbas-Meshaal-Netanyahu trifecta of Middle East callers. 
While both sides paid lip-service to MEPP issues, Iran was 
the main agenda item.  This reflects Netanyahu's priorities 
and the GOR's belief that it is Washington's job, not 
Moscow's, to pressure the Israelis on MEPP issues.  Israel 
came away pleased with Russia's changed posture on Iran, but 
disappointed that its list of sanctions was too ambitious for 
the GOR.  Separately, the widely reported "quid-pro-quo" on a 
mutual freeze of the Russian S-300 delivery for Iran and 
Israeli military sales to Georgia could be a convenient 
Israeli invention.  While Israeli contacts say there is no 
formal deal, Netanyahu's statements to the media created 
enough speculation to put Russia in a corner.  Should Moscow 
eventually deliver the system to Iran, Israel has a pretext 
to step up arms sales to Georgia. 
Beyrle