Why Does Russia Need a Middle East Conference?
(RIA Novosti, by Marianna Belenkaya) — Russian President Vladimir
Putin has proposed holding an international conference on the
Middle East peace process in Moscow this fall.
This statement alone has made his Middle Eastern tour something
of a sensation.
had up until now preferred to maintain a low profile in the Middle
East peace process. Russian diplomats worked with the other members
of the quartet of mediators (the U.S., EU and UN) to draft the
"road map" peace plan and Russian foreign ministers
regularly visited the region. But all of these steps were made
away from the political spotlight, whereas in public the Kremlin
did nothing more than speak about "a just peace in the Middle
situation has changed radically now. But if the Arabs are happy
about this, then Israel and the U.S. are concerned and asking
questions, which is logical. Vladimir Putin advanced the conference
idea in Cairo but did not explain what its goals should be.
idea was "misunderstood and distorted," Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov said in Jerusalem yesterday. Russia was not suggesting
a summit, but routine consultations on ways to advance the Palestine-Israel
the fall as the timeframe of the conference was wise: Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan for the withdrawal of Jewish
settlements from Gaza and the West Bank should be completed by
a jump into the unknown," diplomatic sources say. "We
will have to reassess the situation, harmonize our positions,
ensure proper delimitation, and so on."
task will be to link Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza to the peace
process in general. The forthcoming withdrawal is not a part of
the Palestinian-Israeli settlement but a security measure taken
by Israel, which it keeps repeating. This is why Moscow decided
a new meeting of the concerned countries would be needed after
Sharon’s plan was implemented.
public was misled by the word "conference." The road
map stipulates two conferences.
is to be held after the Palestinian election in a bid to support
the Palestinian economy and launch a process that should result
in the creation of an independent Palestinian state within provisional
borders. It can be said that this conference was held in London
this March. Israel ignored it, saying that it did not need to
be present at a discussion of Palestinian reforms, which is a
disputable view. Accordingly, the provisional borders were not
discussed in London.
second conference, to be held at the next stage of the peace process,
should approve agreements on the creation of a Palestinian state
within provisional borders and launch discussions of the final
settlement conditions. This is what frightens Israel.
the suggested Moscow meeting is not connected to the above conferences
at all. The final settlement remains a remote prospect, and the
road map is not being complied with properly (only individual
elements of the first stage are being implemented). So, Israel
has no reason to fear that unacceptable settlement conditions
will be forced on it in Moscow.
administration reacted to Putin’s idea by saying Israel was against
foreign interference in the Palestine-Israel conflict. But Russia
is not intending to put pressure on either side in the conflict,
and is only proposing compromise solutions, which the Palestinians
and Israelis can accept or reject. Vladimir Putin said in an interview
on the eve of his Middle Eastern tour: "We cannot and will
not act in place of the negotiating parties."
an interview he granted to Russian journalists, Sharon repeatedly
praised Russia’s role in the Middle East process. Israel may still
think that Russian policy in the region is pro-Arab, but Moscow
is positioning itself as an objective intermediary and will try
to prove this honest intention. This is why Putin has always stressed
in conversations with Israeli and Arab politicians that the security
of Israel is important to Russia.
is what Russian diplomats will have to explain to Israel and the
U.S. There is enough time to do this before fall, particularly
given that the situation in the Middle East tends to change very
quickly. But if the Moscow meeting is postponed, the Kremlin will
not complain. The most important thing is that the meeting benefits