Middle East

Abbas meets Putin, seeks Quartet role in peace process

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met on Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The meeting took place at the Black Sea resort city of Sochi. 

On the eve of the visit, Abbas said that he will discuss with Putin the idea of holding an international conference for peace in the Middle East under the auspices of the Quartet, which consists of the US, Russia, United Nations and European Union.

“We are confident that Russia will support our efforts [to hold the conference],” Abbas told the Russian news agency Sputnik.

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Abbas said that his talks with Putin will focus on ways of reviving the peace process with Israel, especially in light of Russia’s support for the two-state solution. 

MOHAMMED DAHLAN, a former Fatah security chief, gestures in his office in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, last year. (credit: REUTERS)

He added that he will also brief Putin on the latest developments related to Palestinian-Israeli relations “and how to find a solution that is based on international legitimacy.’

In addition, the Abbas-Putin talks dealt with ways of strengthening bilateral relations.

PLO Executive Committee member Ahmad Majdalani said that Abbas’s visit to Moscow aims primarily to discuss ways of reviving the role of the Quartet in the region in general and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in particular.

The demand for reviving the Quartet was aimed at preventing the US from having an exclusive and major role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a Palestinian official in Ramallah said. 

“We want the participation of several international parties in the peace process,” the official added. “The experience of the past has shown that the US can’t oversee the peace process alone, mainly because of its bias in favor of Israel.”

The current US administration “appears to be weak and not interested in playing a significant and influential role in the region,” the official said. “That’s why the Palestinian leadership has decided to push President Abbas’s initiative to encourage the Quartet members to replace the US as the main sponsors of the peace process. President Putin is a friend of the Palestinian people and is committed to the two-state solution.”

It was not clear whether the Abbas-Putin talks also dealt with divisions among the Palestinians, including the dispute between Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction and Hamas, as well as the rivalry between the PA president and ousted Fatah operative Mohammed Dahlan.

Dahlan, a former PA security chief in the Gaza Strip, was expelled from Fatah after a fall out with Abbas more than a decade ago. Dahlan has since been residing in the United Arab Emirates, where he has become a major and leading opponent to Abbas and the PA leadership.

Recently, Dahlan and some of his supporters visited Moscow, where they met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The visit sparked speculation among Palestinians that the Russians were planning to act as mediators to resolve the dispute between Abbas and Dahlan. The visit also came amid reports that the UAE has imposed restrictions on Dahlan and his men, banning them from pursuing their public activities in the Gulf state.

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Dahlan supporters denied the reports and said that there was no tension between him and the rulers of the UAE. They also denied that Dahlan was considering relocating to Egypt. According to reports in the Arab media, Dahlan serves as a special adviser to UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed.

Fatah officials in Ramallah, for their part, denied that Moscow was working towards ending the dispute between Abbas and his archrival, Dahlan. “Mohammed Dahlan is a convicted criminal and he will not be allowed to return to the Fatah leadership,” said a veteran Fatah official. “Dahlan was expelled from Fatah in 2011 because of his involvement in corruption and other serious crimes. If he chooses to return to Ramallah, he will be sent to prison, where he belongs.”

In 2016, a PA court in Ramallah sentenced Dahlan, in absentia, to three years in prison after convicting him of embezzling $16 million.

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