Amid Ukraine tensions, Russia's Lavrov calls off Israel visit


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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia on January 18, 2019.
Alexander NEMENOV (AFP)Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia on January 18, 2019.

Lavrov cancels the entire planned visit to the Middle East

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday cancelled his visit to Israel, Israeli and Russian news outlets reported. 

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The reasons behind the cancellation were unclear, with some reports citing "personal reasons" and others a strike by staffers of Israel's Foreign Ministry. 

Moscow is embroiled in a tense standoff with neighboring Ukraine amid fears that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by President Vladimir Putin to invade the ex-Soviet neighbor.

Lavrov was expected to meet with his counterpart, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, as well as Prime Minister Naftali Bennett; topics of discussion would've included the nuclear negotiations between Iran and Western powers taking place in the Austrian capital of Vienna, as well as coordination between Moscow and Jerusalem concerning military activities in Syria. 

Israel routinely carries out air strikes in Syria, mostly against targets linked to Iran, in a bid to prevent its arch enemy from consolidating a foothold on its northern border. 

Lavrov in the past spoke out against Israeli raids, saying Jerusalem should instead provide Moscow with intelligence about such threats so that it can “neutralize” them.

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