Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemned Russia's “unjustified” invasion of Ukraine on a visit to neighboring countries on Sunday, in one of Israel's most clear-cut criticisms of Moscow since war broke out over two weeks ago.
Lapid said Israel “calls on Russia to stop the shooting and attacks and to solve the problems around the negotiating table,” following a meeting with his Romanian counterpart, Bogdan Aurescu, in Bucharest, as part of a diplomatic lap in Romania and Slovakia.
Amid additional calls for Jerusalem to mediate between Ukraine and Russia, Lapid said that “Israel will help as much as possible to reach a peaceful solution. We are working in full coordination with our allies, the U.S., and our European partners to try to end this violent tragedy as quickly as possible."
Israel's foreign minister also thanked the Romanian government for “helping Israel help several lives,” including assisting in the transfer of Jewish children from an orphanage in Odessa to Israel.
Visiting the Siret border crossing between Ukraine and Romania, Lapid said: "We have a moral duty to be part of the international effort to help Ukrainian refugees find a warm shelter and a bed to sleep in. It is our duty not only to be good Jews, but also good people."
"Israel has 9 million residents, and our Jewish identity will not be harmed by several thousand more refugees," Lapid added, "but clearly we can't take in tens of thousands of non-Jewish refugees… The government will find the right balance. This is our job."
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Lapid also met with Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca. The two discussed the situation of refugees at the border and the humanitarian aid of Israel and Romania. Minister Lapid thanked Prime Minister Ciuca for his assistance and close cooperation with Foreign Ministry officials in Romania, praising the relationship between the two countries, which was already good but has strengthened in time of emergency and appears to turn into a real partnership.
On Monday, Lapid will head to Slovakia's capital, Bratislava, for a meeting with President Zuzana Caputova and Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok.
Earlier this week, Lapid met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Riga, the capital of Latvia, to discuss the war in Ukraine and the emerging Iran nuclear agreement. According to sources, Lapid updated the U.S. Secretary of State on the round of meetings and phone conversations which took place earlier in the week between Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
In his meeting with Blinken, Lapid criticized Russian actions in Ukraine, adding that while Israel is assisting in the mediation effort, “We have condemned the Russian invasion, and we still do… and Israel is a partner in the global effort to make sure and verify that this war must be stopped.”
The U.S. has called on Israel to publicly condemn Russia, and the Biden Administration has sought to make Lapid's statement public.