Israel to sign visa-free deal with Russia in one week – source

By RIA Novosti

Tel Aviv : Israel plans to sign a deal on visa-free travel with Russia in a week’s time during a visit by Russia’s foreign minister to the country, a source in the Israeli Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

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Russia and Israel announced late last year that a feasibility study had been concluded on scrapping visas, and that the two countries had launched domestic procedures for drafting a corresponding agreement. The agreement will come into force three months after its signing.

“This means that citizens of both countries will be able to travel without visas from June 21,” the source told RIA Novosti.

Russia’s Sergei Lavrov will visit Israel next Thursday to meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. The last item on the agenda of his visit will be the signing of an agreement on ending the visa regime.

Vladimir Slutsker, a member of the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s parliament, earlier said that of more than 2 million tourists who visited Israel in 2007, half a million were U.S. nationals followed by 250,000 French visitors. Russian tourists held third place with more than 100,000 people.

He also said that visa-free travel between the two countries would be both economically useful and historically natural. He said immigrants from Russia and other former Soviet republics accounted for over 1 million of Israel’s 7 million citizens, meaning that visits to friends and relatives would probably rise dramatically.