Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is in Moscow on Monday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a bid to sideline the US from the Middle East peace process following Donald Trump‘s decision to circumvent international law and unilaterally recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
Putin and Abbas will discuss the future of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and the prospect of finding a mechanism in which the United States would no longer serve as the primary mediator between the two sides. The meeting comes amid ongoing tensions between Washington and the Palestinian Authority (PA) over Trump’s December recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The PA has argued that the Trump administration was no longer qualified to play the role of honest broker in any peace process due to its “bias” in favour of Israel.
The Palestinians are also upset with Trump’s threats to cut funding to the PA and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).
Russia is once again becoming a vital ally for the Palestinians after years of tepid relations in the wake of the 1991 Soviet collapse. As one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Russia officially recognises Palestine as a state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967 following the Arabs’ crushing defeat in the Six-Day War that saw Israel rout the combined Soviet-supplied armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. By the end of the brief war, Israel had occupied Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip, Syria’s strategic Golan Heights, as well as the West Bank and East Jerusalem, then a part of the Kingdom of Jordan.
Tel Aviv later withdrew from the Sinai, Gaza, and the West Bank but have kept the Golan and a unified Jerusalem – including the historic “Old City” – under Israeli authority.
Russia is a member of the Mideast Quartet for peace. Established in Madrid in 2002 to promote peace in the Middle East, the group is composed of Russia, the UN, EU, and the US.
Israel and the United States have long opposed an international effort involving the United Nations in peace negotiations, expressing concerns it would be biased against Israel. They have insisted on direct talks between the parties.
The Palestinian envoy to the UN on February 8 suggested that China and Arab League could also be part of any future ‘peace processes on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In late January, Abbas addressed an African Union meeting in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, calling on African states to join a multilateral mechanism to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Moscow offered to host one-on-one talks between Abbas and Netanyahu in 2016 but received a cool reception from both sides.