Israeli foreign minister promises Zelenskiy more aid, rebuilding help
JERUSALEM/KYIV, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Israel will expand existing aid to Ukraine and help rebuild the country, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said on Thursday during the first official Israeli visit to Kyiv since Russia's invasion a year ago.
Cohen wrote in a tweet that he made the promise in a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, adding they agreed that Iranian activity in Ukraine deserved condemnation and required "practical steps" from the international community.
Zelenskiy said the men discussed "deepening bilateral cooperation in various areas" and he was grateful for Israel's humanitarian aid. They discussed Israel's participation in post-war reconstruction, he said in a Telegram post, adding, "Ukraine could use Israel's experience in demining."
Israel has condemned the invasion, but it has limited its assistance to Kyiv to humanitarian aid and protective gear. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who returned to power in December, has spoken about reviewing policy on the conflict but has stopped short of pledging any direct supply of arms.
The Israelis want to maintain a coordination hotline with Russia, set up in 2015 over their military strikes on suspected Iranian targets in Syria, where Moscow has a garrison. They are also mindful of the welfare of Russia's big Jewish community.
"I emphasized to him that Israel unequivocally supports Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Cohen tweeted.
"We also agreed that Iran's terrorist activity in Ukraine deserves condemnation and practical steps by the international community in the strongest of terms," he said.
The European Union is preparing to sanction Iranian entities involved in the war, while on Feb. 3, the United States sanctioned Iranian drone maker Paravar Pars over the use of its drones to attack critical Ukrainian infrastructure.
Without mentioning Russia, nor military aid, Cohen added, "I promised him that Israel will expand the aid we are providing and that we will be a party to rebuilding Ukraine after the war as well."
During an earlier briefing with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Cohen said Israel would support a Ukrainian peace initiative at the United Nations next week and help secure up to $200 million for healthcare and infrastructure projects.
He added that Israel would help develop a smart air raid early warning system.
"I am proud to stand with Ukraine in the face of these challenging times," Cohen said.
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