August 20, 2008 / 9:00 PM / 11 years ago

Israel, Russia hold talks on Georgia, Middle East

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev chairs the session of the State Security Council at the presidential residence at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, August 16, 2008. REUTERS/RIA NOVOSTI/Kremlin/Vladimir Rodionov

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev discussed Middle East peace moves with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday, in advance of an expected visit by Syria’s leader to Moscow, an Israeli official said.

The conversation initiated by a telephone call from Medvedev, also dwelt on Israeli-Russian ties in light of Russia’s conflict with Georgia, the official said. Russia has accused Israel of supplying Georgia with military equipment.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Olmert, said the two leaders “spoke about what went on in the Caucasus and the Middle East peace process,” including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s planned visit this week to the Russian capital.

Israel and Syria have conducted indirect peace talks since May under Turkish mediation, after direct negotiations failed in 2000 in a dispute over the terms for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in a 1967 war.

Assad said in an interview with Russia’s Kommersant newspaper on Wednesday that Syria wanted to tighten its defense cooperation with Moscow. Russia’s arms sales to Syria have angered Israel and the United States in the past.

Tensions over military aid flared anew between Russia and Israel this month, but over charges by Russia’s military that the Jewish state had supplied Georgia with military vehicles and explosives and had helped to train its army.

Israel has said it does not supply arms to other countries as a government but that private firms conduct equipment sales and training with the defense ministry’s approval.

Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Giles Elgood

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