Russian President Vladimir Putin is on his first Middle East tour in seven years, which began with a trip to Jerusalem. Putin met with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday where the main topics were the crisis in Syria and Iran's nuclear plans. Sanctions on Iran should be increased, Netanyahu said, and demands enhanced regarding its nuclear program. Netanyahu told a news conference in Jerusalem that Israel and Russia agreed that Iranian nuclear proliferation posed a threat to Israel and the world. Russia hosted the latest talks with Iran earlier this month which failed to produce any commitments. Putin’s visit was scheduled to coincide with the inauguration of the national monument honoring Soviet Red Army soldiers killed in World War II.
On Tuesday, Putin met with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in Bethlehem and visited the Church of the Nativity. Putin's meeting with Abbas was expected to focus on the deadlock over restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that has been on hold for almost four years. Putin will travel next to Jordan, where he will meet King Abdullah.