Israeli Foreign Minister says aid to Ukraine will continue before call with Lavrov

Eli Cohen also says summit with Arab allies will be hosted by Morocco in March

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Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said on Monday that aid to Ukraine will continue, before a planned call with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“On the issue of Russia and Ukraine, there is one thing that we will certainly be doing, and that is less talking about it in public,” Mr Cohen said during his first speech as Foreign Minister under returning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Nonetheless, our significant humanitarian aid to Ukraine will continue.”

Israel-Russia ties expanded significantly under the last Netanyahu government, with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Israeli leader boasting of their close friendship.

Ties have remained cordial despite tension over Syria, where the Israeli air force has launched hundreds of air strikes against Iran-linked targets.

Russia — a close ally of Iran — sent S-300 air defence missiles to Syria in 2018 and deployed more advanced versions of the system to protect its forces in the country. But Russia has not intervened to stop Israel's attacks, which have caused significant damage to military infrastructure and killed Syrian soldiers.

The two countries have been in talks to sign a free trade agreement, with discussions initiated by Mr Netanyahu in 2019.

During his speech, Mr Cohen also spoke about expanding the Abraham Accords.

“The expansion of the Abraham Accords is not a question of if, but when,” he said referring to the bilateral agreements between Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco between 2020 and 2021.

In a tweet, Mr Cohen also said he had spoken with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken about the importance of the accords.

During the phone call, Mr Cohen also said Israel's relationship with the US remains its “top priority”.

“We will continue to strengthen the special relationship between the countries,” Mr Cohen said.

The next summit between Israel and its Arab allies will take place in Morocco in March, Mr Cohen said.

Last March, Israel hosted a similar meeting with signatories and supporters of the accords in the Negev. Participants included the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt and the US.

Updated: January 02, 2023, 7:28 PM