Lavrov to Discuss Ways to Improve Middle East Situation with Palestinian Counterpart

Photo: The Moscow Times

On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with his Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Maliki, who earlier arrived to the Russian capital on an official visit, TASS reports.

The Palestinian foreign minister’s last visit to Moscow took place in 2019, when he attended the 5th session of the Russian-Arab cooperation forum on the ministerial level. His visit’s agenda focused on Israeli-Palestinian settlement.

The Middle Eastern peace process will dominate the upcoming talks as well. According to Russian Foreign Ministry’s official spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, Lavrov and Maliki will pay special attention to issues of restoring Palestinian unity.

“There will also be a thorough discussion of the prospects for stepping up international efforts to support the Middle East peace process. The two officials will review in detail efforts being made by the Quartet of international mediators and ways of implementing the Russian proposal for working out the parameters of a ministerial meeting to be held by the four mediators and inviting some Arab counties to take part in its work,” she said.

Platform for dialogue

Moscow has repeatedly stressed its readiness to assist the Israeli-Palestinian settlement along with other members of the Quartet, through a direct dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians and on the universally accepted basis of the international law. Among other things, during the January 26 UN Security Council open debates the Russian top diplomat suggested holding a ministerial meeting involving Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia this spring or summer.

In March, Russia confirmed its readiness to act as a mediator in direct talks and suggested Moscow as a possible venue. Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, who arrived to the Russian capital for talks with Lavrov in mid-March, told TASS in an interview that his country would definitely consider the possibility, but it depends on the parliamentary election set to be held in Palestine in May.

“At the end of the day, the problem is not about getting us together – the distance between Jerusalem and Ramallah is 10 miles. It’s about achieving progress. Our solution is to start changing the existing situation by helping to reinforce trust. This is what we should start with,” the minister said.

General elections in Palestine

The general elections in Palestine, which were once again postponed indefinitely a short while ago, are likely to be discussed by the two ministers.

Palestinian territories haven’t had any elections since 2006 even though the presidential and parliamentarian mandates have long expired. The vote was scheduled for the second half of May, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced on April 30 that it would be postponed until it is guaranteed that East Jerusalem residents can take part. The Palestinian leader said Israel had refused to allow an election campaign in East Jerusalem, and called upon the international community to put pressure on the Jewish state.

Bilateral ties

Since the start of the year, Moscow and Ramallah stepped up their social and economic cooperation. On January 11, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) announced that Russia’s Sputnik V anti-coronavirus vaccine had been registered by the Ministry of Health of the State of Palestine. The vaccine was registered under the emergency use authorization procedure without additional clinical trials in the country. The first batch was delivered on February 4. However, according to European media reports, the vaccination campaign was postponed due to delayed deliveries.