Israel okays Russian supply of armored vehicles to PA
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent, and The Associated Press
Israel has agreed to allow Russia to supply the Palestinian Authority security services in the West Bank with Russian-made armored vehicles, Haaretz has learned.
During Thursday's meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Russia accepted the Israeli demand that the vehicles not be mounted with machine guns as was originally planned. Palestinian police officers will be permitted to carry small arms only.
According to the understandings reached, 25 Russian-manufactured vehicles will be delivered to the Palestinians in the near future. An additional shipment of 25 vehicles will be temporarily stored in Jordan. Depending on the quality of security coordination with the Palestinians, Israel will decide when to transfer the remaining vehicles to the PA at a later stage.
Last year, a political brouhaha erupted over reports of a deal in principle between Israel and Russia whereby Jerusalem agreed to the transfer of armored vehicles to the Palestinian Authority. Right-wing parties bitterly criticized Olmert for the decision.
Lavrov: Gaza blockade unacceptable
Lavrov said Friday during a visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah that Israel should end the blockade of the Gaza Strip and halt all settlement activity.
After meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Lavrov told a press conference that the blockade, imposed by Israel and Egypt after Hamas seized control of Gaza in June, is unacceptable.
Lavrov added that Russia was very much concerned about Israeli construction on land the Palestinians claim for a future state. "We call for an immediate halt to settlement activity," he said.
On Thursday, Lavrov met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who expressed concern over Russia's continuing supply of sophisticated weaponry to Syria and Iran.
Olmert stressed Israel's fear that these weapons, including advanced anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft missiles, could find their way into the hands of the Lebanon-based guerilla group Hezbollah, supported by Syria and Iran, which has threatened to destroy Israel.
Lavrov responded by saying that Russia has no knowledge of Hezbollah possessing Russian weapons, and that if Israel has any information on the topic, Russia would be happy to look into it
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