Russian Embassy to Host Its National Day Celebrations in Jerusalem For the First Time

middle east
AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Presidential Press Service

TEL AVIV – In an unprecedented move, the Russian embassy in Israel will host its annual National Day reception in Jerusalem next month following Moscow’s recognition of western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last year. 

The event will be hosted by Russia’s incoming ambassador Anatoly Viktorov at Sergei’s Courtyard in an area of downtown Jerusalem known as the Russian Compound, which Israeli authorities handed to Russia a decade ago in a goodwill gesture, the Times of Israel reported.

“The decision to host the National Day reception there is not occasional. The Compound symbolizes our culture, traditions and represents a genuine Russian allotment in Israel and the Middle East in general,” a spokesperson for the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv told the Times of Israel on Monday.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said that the event “corresponds to Russia’s April 6, 2017 recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and reflects the good relations between the two countries.”

However, following the decision to host the National Day reception in Jerusalem, the embassy made it clear that Russia still considers the eastern part of the city to be the capital of a future Palestinian state and is opposed to the Trump administration’s decision to recognize all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  Eastern Jerusalem contains the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site – as well as the Western Wall and the ancient Jewish Quarter in the Old City.

“We keep in mind that the specific parameters of a solution for the entire range of the issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict, including Jerusalem, should be coordinated at the direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” the Russian embassy spokesman said. “Russia is ready to further provide assistance to the achievement of relevant agreements between the parties.”

The majority of foreign embassies in Israel host their independence day or national day celebrations in the Tel Aviv area.

Despite relocating the embassy to Jerusalem earlier this month, the U.S. will not hold the July 4th reception in the city this year, the report said.

“We will comment on the July 4 event when we get closer to the event. We’re not ready to make further announcements,” a U.S. embassy official said.

The event is likely to be held at the ambassador’s official residence in Herzliya where it has been held in recent years.

In a February interview with the Times of Israel, Russia’s Deputy Ambassador to Israel Leonid Frolov said that President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “greatly disrupted the peace process.”

“You see in Trump’s declaration what you like. But the fact that the declaration disturbs the peace process doesn’t bother you. No one doubts that Israel’s capital will be in Jerusalem. We are simply saying that the Arab population that lives in the Palestinian territories also deserves a capital in this holy city,” he said.