Middle East

Israel urges Russia's Vladimir Putin to get tough on Iran

Vladimir Putin (L) and Shimon Peres at the Netanya memorial , 25 June Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Putin inaugurated a World War II monument in Netanya with Shimon Peres

Israel has urged visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin to take a stronger line on curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Mr Putin is on his first Middle East tour in seven years, aiming to bolster Russia's diplomatic presence.

He said he had discussed Iran and Syria in great detail and negotiations on both were the only solution.

Mr Putin unveiled a World War II monument in Netanya and on Tuesday will travel to the West Bank.

Israel and Russia have strong cultural ties, with Israel home to more than a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

But politically relations have often been strained, correspondents say.

'Personal request'

After his meeting with Mr Putin on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "We agree that nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran pose a grave danger, first for Israel but also for the region and the whole world."

Calling for all uranium enrichment in Iran to cease, he said: "Two things need to be done now: we need to bolster the sanctions and bolster the demands."

Iran says its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful, but Western countries suspect it trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Netanyahu (R) urged Mr Putin to take a stronger role on Iran and Syria

Mr Netanyahu also said "the killing and horrible suffering of the Syrian people" must stop.

Mr Putin said the pair had discussed Iran and Syria and that he saw negotiations as the only solution, adding that it was "unacceptable to think of mutual destruction".

He added: "From the very beginning of the so-called Arab Spring, Russia has been persuading its partners that democratic changes should take place in a civilised manner and without external intervention."

Mr Putin had begun his visit by inaugurating a Soviet Red Army memorial in Netanya to pay tribute to fallen soldiers of World War II.

Later Israeli President Shimon Peres stepped up the pressure on Mr Putin, making a "personal request that you make your voice heard against a nuclear Iran" and warning of a "real danger that Syrian chemical weapons will reach the hands of Hezbollah and al-Qaeda".

Mr Peres said: "I am confident that Russia, which defeated fascism, will not allow today's threats to continue. Not the Iranian threat. Not the bloodshed in Syria."

Mr Putin said Russia had a "national interest" in a peaceful Israel.

On Tuesday, Mr Putin will meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

Mr Netanyahu asked Mr Putin to deliver a message to Mr Abbas urging the Palestinian leader to resume peace talks stalled since 2010.

But BBC West Bank correspondent Jon Donnison says such an outcome is unlikely as Mr Abbas is demanding that Israel halt its expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Mr Putin will later head to Jordan, where he will meet King Abdullah.

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