Photo Credit: Hillel Maeir/TPS
Russia;s Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov, arriving to the swearing in ceremony for ambassadors, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem. Jerusalem, Jul 2, 2018.

Russia’s Ambassador to Israel Ambassador Anatoly Viktorov on Wednesday was summoned to the Foreign Ministry following an interview with the Jerusalem Post in which he claimed that Israel, and not Iran, is the problem in the Middle East.

“The problem in the region is not Iranian activities. It’s a lack of understanding between countries and non-compliance with UN resolutions in the Israel-Arab and Israel-Palestinian conflict,” Viktorov asserted in the interview published earlier in the day.

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He also claimed that “Israel is attacking Hezbollah; Hezbollah is not attacking Israel.”

The head of the Foreign Ministry’s Strategic-Diplomatic Department Alon Bar met with Viktorov and vehemently protested his remarks.

Bar rejected the remarks emphasizing that “they were inconsistent with the reality in the Middle East, which was presented to the ambassador more than once and discussed in political talks and diplomatic channels between the two countries,” a statement by the Foreign Ministry said.

Bar clarified to the ambassador Israel’s position and expectation that “the discourse, including on regional issues, especially the Iranian threat and the terrorist organizations that act on Iran’s orders, and especially Hezbollah, will take place through diplomatic channels, with reference to the reality and threats that Israel is facing, and not outrageous and dangerous false visions.”

Viktorov claimed during the meeting that some of the quotes were inaccurate.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi stated during a press conference on Wednesday that “it was made clear beyond all doubt that Israel does not accept these statements, and thus I hope we will bring an end to such embarrassing and unacceptable statements between us and Russia.”

In his letter to the Post, Viktorov asserted that while the quotes in the story were accurate, he disagreed with the conjectures drawn from the quotes.

“Russian-Israeli constructive dialogue is founded on a solid base of partnership in various spheres,” Viktorov wrote. “The Russian Federation will continue to further develop and expand bilateral ties with Israeli counterparts in order to achieve lasting peace and stability in the Middle East for the benefit of the peoples of the region.”

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.