Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett offered on Sunday to mediate an end to the Ukraine hostilties during a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said.
The offer followed months of Ukrainian appeals to Israel to serve as intermediary. Israel has good ties with both Moscow and Kyiv, and Bennett has been publicly restrained in remarks about the fighting in Ukraine.
An Israeli official said Bennett told Putin that Israel "was prepared to assist at any time, and as requested, to assist in resolving the crisis and bringing the sides closer together."
While Israel's foreign minister has echoed Western censure of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Bennett has stopped short of such remarks. Israel is wary of clashing with Moscow, which has military sway over its neighbor Syria.
The Kremlin statement quoted Putin as saying that Russia was prepared to hold talks with Ukraine in Belarus but that the Ukrainian side had "not seized the opportunity." Minsk is aligned with Moscow. Ukraine has so far rejected talks there while leaving the door open for other locations.
Israel was in touch with all sides of the conflict, senior Foreign Ministry official Gary Koren told radio station Kan.
Asked if the relatively low-key condemnation of Russia was aimed at keeping open an option of Israel serving as intermediary, he answered in the affirmative, saying: "Exactly as you described it."
In televised remarks opening his cabinet's weekly meeting, Bennett made no mention of any mediation role for Israel.
"We pray for the wellbeing of the citizens of Ukraine and hope that further bloodshed is prevented," he said, announcing that Israel was sending 100 tonnes of humanitarian aid to the country. "We are conducting ourselves with moderation and responsibility."
Israel is home to hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Russia and Ukraine. It is also mindful of the well-being of the two countries' large Jewish communities.
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