Putin Lauds Expat Lieberman's 'Brilliant Political Career' in Israel

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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin praised Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Friday for his rise to a senior cabinet position in Israel after having emigrated from the former Soviet Union.

"We are very happy that people from the Soviet Union build such a brilliant political career," said Putin at a meeting in Moscow, referring to the foreign minister.

Lieberman, leader of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, was born in the former Soviet Moldova.

During the talks, the foreign minister called for closer ties and economic cooperation between the two countries. He spoke with Putin in flawless Russian, throwing in a few words of English.

Putin also praised Israel's sizable Russian community as "something that unites us with you like no other country."

Lieberman was visiting Moscow for a session of a Russian-Israeli Intergovernmental Commission, which mainly focuses on economic ties. He lauded the commission for establishing a visa-free system between the two countries last year. He said the measure will likely to double the number of Russian tourists traveling to Israel to 400,000 this year.

The committee will invite business communities of both countries to its next session in April 2010 to discuss news initiatives such as measures to help protect Russian and Israeli investment, Lieberman said.

Lieberman and Putin did not discuss Iran's nuclear ambitions or any other foreign policy issues on the record. After stepping down as president in 2008, Putin formally isn't in charge of Russia's foreign policy.