Russia's way of solving issues in chaotic Middle East just might work

Commentary Materials 21 December 2018 14:59 (UTC +04:00)
Israel and Palestine have not had any official peace talks since April 2014.
Russia's way of solving issues in chaotic Middle East just might work

Baku, Azerbaijan, Dec. 21

By Azer Ahmadbayli – Trend:

Israel and Palestine have not had any official peace talks since April 2014.

For more than four years the situation on the ground can be described as a creeping degradation accompanied by outbreaks of violence, interchanging with periods of relative calmness.

Eventually, at the end of last year, with the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, President Trump decided to jerk the peace process forward.

Infuriating Palestinians and many Muslim countries, as well as causing mixed reactions from his European allies, Mr. Trump looked like Giordano Bruno, who was convicted of heresy and burned at the stake for his cosmological theories. Admittedly, later turned out that he was right.

In this case, we also need to wait and find out, from a historical perspective, whether the US president was right with his decision, although many, including the UN and the EU, are already confident that the decision was wrong.

However, the snowball effect, as it occurred in the case of the recognition of Kosovo, didn’t take place.

What else has Washington done lately regarding the issue? It closed the mission of the Palestinian authority in the United States, stopped financial assistance to the UNRWA, put out a draft resolution condemning the Hamas militants to a vote in the UN.

Meanwhile, Moscow has a different approach to the issue.

Russian Foreign Ministry stated in April 2017: “We reaffirm our commitment to the UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which include the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. At the same time, we must state that in this context we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

A balanced position based on the UN resolutions is a win - both for Moscow's reputation and for international public opinion.

Russia does not make statements condemning Hamas, but invites the head of the organization to visit Moscow. What Moscow will talk to him about is unknown, but I bet that after his return to Gaza, the current escalation between Israel and Hamas will recede.

Moscow has also shown a principled stand with regard to Israel’s “Northern Shield” operation by warning Lebanon against violations of Israeli territory by the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.

A report by Al-Sharq Al-Awsat says that Moscow has sent a message to the Lebanese Government with demand to ensure that tunnels dug by Hezbollah and penetrating the Israeli territory, are demolished.

Reportedly, the message also suggested that Russia backed Israel’s demand that the Lebanese Government will be held responsible for Hezbollah activity within the country.

One more sign saying that Israel ought to pay closer attention to Russia’s regional policy is that thanks to Moscow's efforts, Tehran-controlled military troops were withdrawn to a distance of 100 kilometers from the separation line in southern Syria, which was officially stated by the assistant to the Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Alexander Venediktov.

In addition, despite the incident with the downed Russian military aircraft, the two countries continue military coordination in Syria.

Moscow's efforts to extinguish existing and potential conflicts and to pacify the region, attract attention.

In fact, Russia, instead of, or alongside with, the United States, could well become the new architect of the Middle East. It has good starting opportunities in this matter, as being the only one among all major powers who maintains good relations with virtually all regional players.

By the way, points of contact between the positions of Russia and the United States with respect to Israeli-Palestinian conflict do exist: remember the words of President Trump during his recognition speech, which remained somewhat unnoticed: “We are not taking a position on any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved….Without question, Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive issues in those talks. The United States would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides.”