Israel will continue trying to mediate between Russia and Ukraine even if success seems unlikely, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday after returning from surprise talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ukraine has requested that Israel serve as intermediary, citing the government’s good relations with both Kyiv and Moscow. Bennett’s office said he had spoken three times over the weekend with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
In televised remarks to his cabinet, Bennett gave no details on his three-hour Kremlin meeting with Putin on Saturday, saying only that it had “the blessing and encouragement of all parties” – an allusion to the United States, among other powers.
“We will continue to assist wherever this is requested, even if the chances are not great,” Bennett said. “The moment there is even a small opening, and we have the access to all sides and the capability, I see it as a moral duty to make every attempt.”
The two leaders spoke again by phone on Sunday, the Kremlin said, and discussed Bennett’s “most recent contacts with leaders of a number of countries”.
In parallel, Bennett spoke with the leaders of Germany and France while his foreign minister, Yair Lapid, was due to meet U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday in Riga, according to Israeli officials.
Israel has condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, expressed solidarity with Kyiv and sent humanitarian aid. But Bennett has not met Ukrainian requests for military assistance and has kept channels open to Russia, with which Israel coordinates its operations against Iranian deployments in Syria.