Russia President Planning First Official Visit to Israel in January

President Dmitry Medvedev will be the first Russian president to visit Israel since 2005, when Vladimir Putin met with Ariel Sharon.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will come to Israel on an official visit January 17, in what will be his first trip to the country since becoming president, a senior Foreign Ministry official said on Tuesday.

The official said Israel and Russia settled on the date in the last few days and that preparations for the visit have begun.

The agenda for Medvedev's visit has not yet been set, but it is expected to include the nuclearization of Iran, Russia's supply of advanced weapons to Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. There may also be less sensitive topics on the agenda, including the increase in the number of Russian tourists to Israel and the Netanya monument to Red Army soldiers who were killed fighting the Nazis.

The last time a Russian president visited Israel was in 2005, when Vladimir Putin met with Ariel Sharon, who was prime minister at the time and whom the Russian leader is said to respect and admire.

Putin's visit, which took place during Passover, was a milestone in bilateral relations in that it marked the begining of a period of improved ties between the countries despite serious differences on political and security issues, Foreign Ministry officials said.

Meanwhile, the Israel-Russia Joint Economic Committee, a bilateral government panel, will convene this week for the third time since the Moldovan-born Avigdor Lieberman became foreign minister. Lieberman will represent Israel and Viktor Zubkov, Russia's first deputy prime minister, will represent Russia.