Russia to open embassy branch in Jerusalem

The development seems to fly in the face of concerns raised by Russia in the past about such moves hindering a Middle East peace process.

By World Israel News Staff

In a landmark agreement signed last month, Russia is slated to open a new branch of its embassy in Jerusalem as part of a real estate deal with the municipality.

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced the development on Friday, saying that the deal over a disputed plot of land in central Jerusalem, which Russia acquired in 1885, was signed with Jerusalem’s municipality on May 18.

The new property will serve as the consular section of the embassy, housing a complex of buildings providing consular services to the residents of Jerusalem and its surrounding areas as well as housing diplomats.

The development seems to fly in the face of concerns raised by Russia in the past regarding former President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his subsequent decision to move the U.S. embassy there. At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the move undermined prospects for a Middle East peace process and in February 2019, Russia formally announced it had no intention of moving its own embassy to Jerusalem.

The statement from Russia’s foreign ministry, which was first published by the Israel Hayom daily, stated that the new embassy branch would, however, open “in line with our country’s unchanging course towards a fair Middle East settlement.”

As part of the deal, the city has pledged not to expropriate the land for the benefit of a forthcoming light rail line, instead opting for alternative transportation arteries. The city will also allow Russia to register as the owners of a 100-meter area to be used for the road to the future diplomatic compound. Moreover, the city has agreed to drop any suits or demands from Russia, which has traditionally avoided paying taxes as legally required.

Under the agreement, the land will be accorded a higher status than that of a consulate and the construction of the compound is expected to be completed within five years.

The agreement, signed in the Mayor’s office on Jerusalem Day, is the result of six months of negotiations involving Mayor Moshe Lion, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (Likud), Russian Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov, Sergei Makarov acting on behalf of Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, and others.