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Putin congratulates Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on return to power

Russian President Vladimir Putin called to congratulate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday after he announced that he had formed a government. Pool Photo by Abil Sultan/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/7d903dacf3fe119d392b6188cc7969ab/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Russian President Vladimir Putin called to congratulate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday after he announced that he had formed a government. Pool Photo by Abil Sultan/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 22 (UPI) — Russian President Vladimir Putin called to congratulate Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, after the Likud leader announced that he had formed a government.

Putin congratulated him on his victory in November and on establishing a new coalition, Israel said after the call.

“There is mutual confidence that Russian-Israeli relations will continue to develop progressively, and contacts at various levels will continue,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry after the call, according to the Times of Israel.

This was the first conversation between the new leaders since the Nov. 1 elections. Putin has developed a close relationship with Netanyahu over the past decade.

Earlier this month, an official delegation from the Moscow city government visited Israel, a visit unlikely to have occurred without a green light from Putin as Netanyahu prepared to officially take the reins in Israel.

Netanyahu announced Wednesday he had formed a government, a year and a half after the last time Netanyahu was prime minister and while he is being prosecuted in an ongoing corruption trial.

Netanyahu now has to inform Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin that he succeeded in forming a government. Levin is then expected to announce the development on Monday during the next legislative session, after which the incoming prime minister will have seven days to swear in his new government.

Amid uncertainty over the future of Israel’s government, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this month in a speech before the pro-Israel organization J Street conference said the Biden administration expects the new Israeli government to work to advance shared values.

“We’ll continue to express our support for core democratic principles, including respect for the rights of the LGBT community and the equal administration of justice for all citizens of Israel,” he said. “We will gauge the government by the policies it pursues rather than individual personalities.”

He expressed concerns about a recent uptick in violence between Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank.

“We will also continue to unequivocally oppose any acts that undermine the prospects of a two-state solution, including, but not limited to, settlement expansion, moves toward annexation of the West Bank, disruption to the historic status quo at holy sites, demolitions and evictions and incitement to violence,” he said.

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