Russia to Open Embassy Branch in Jerusalem

Russia to Open Embassy Branch in Jerusalem

The Russian embassy and an Israeli foreign ministry official announced on Friday that they will open a branch in Jerusalem. The new branch of the embassy will be located in the western half of the capital on a plot that Russia purchased in 1885. Negotiations took several years and were finalized on May 18. The statement said that a complex of buildings will be constructed to serve the consular section of the embassy.

The agreement included a Russian commitment to set up the embassy branch office in the Maalot Parking lot compound in the city center, in exchange for the city pledging to avoid expropriation of the area for the light rail project being built in its vicinity, essentially requiring a rerouting of the line. The city will allow Russia to have ownership status on a stretch of land totaling some 300 feet that would serve as a passageway to the new diplomatic office, and will no longer demand payment of outstanding taxes related to its diplomatic mission.

The Russian embassy is currently located in Tel Aviv and the new facility, expected to be completed within 5-10 years, will be a branch office providing consular services. The new facility will include diplomatic residences, which will give it a higher status than a consulate .

Many countries including Russia maintain embassies to “Palestine” in Ramallah and three countries (the Vatican, Ireland, and Turkey) maintain embassies to “Palestine” in Jerusalem. Though the US moved its embassy to Jerusalem in 2018, its Office of Palestine Affairs operates independently like an embassy, reporting directly to the State Department.

The announcement of the new facility comes at a time when Russia is being alienated politically by most Western countries. Australia’s Parliament passed legislation on Thursday to prevent Russia from building a second embassy in the capital, Canberra, near the Parliament House. The legislation canceled a pre-existing lease.

“The government has received very clear security advice as to the risk presented by a new Russian presence so close to Parliament House,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters. “We are acting quickly to ensure the lease site does not become a formal diplomatic presence.”

Albanese said Australia’s government condemns Russia’s “illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine.”

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