Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to congratulate him on his 70th birthday, amid tensions between the two countries over the imprisonment of Israeli woman Naama Issachar in Russia.
Netanyahu thanked Putin for the greetings and again raised the issue of the request for a pardon for Issachar, a young Israeli who was recently sentenced to a lengthily prison term in Russia for a minor offense.
Last Tuesday, Netanyahu sent an official request on his behalf and that of President Reuven Rivlin asking Putin to pardon Issachar.
Israel stated it “gravely” viewed Issachar’s verdict as “substantial and disproportionate punishment for a young Israeli with no criminal record.”
According to Netanyahu’s office, the leaders also discussed “the situation in Syria and developments in the region.”
The Kremlin stated that Putin also sent a message of greetings to Netanyahu.
“You are by rights highly respected by your compatriots and by people outside Israel. We in Russia know you as a firm proponent of strengthening friendly ties between our countries and respect you for making a huge personal contribution to the development of mutually beneficial cooperation in a variety of fields,” the message said.
“I highly value our constructive and business-like relations. I hope to be able to continue our substantive dialogue and fruitful joint efforts in the interests of Russian and Israeli people, as well as regional security and stability,” Putin added.
Latvian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis extended his greetings to Netanyahu, wishing him strong health, energy, success and the best of luck in his future endeavors.
He stated in his letter that he remembers with “great pleasure” their “warm and fruitful meetings over the recent years” in Lithuania and Israel and is “very happy with the jointly initiated format of the Baltic-Israeli Prime Ministers’ Meeting.”
“The wide-ranging cooperation between our countries, which covers issues from defense and security to energy, and from economics to cultural cooperation, shows the close ties between Lithuania and Israel. We value Israel as a very important partner in the region and its people – as Lithuania’s true friends,” he wrote.
US President Donald Trump has yet to contact Netanyahu on the occasion of his 70th birthday.