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The Kremlin's unexpected decisions

Moscow’s current Middle East policy is characterized by, among other things, maintaining a strong focus on bilateral relations, striving to diversify or to develop relations with states that are at conflict and wishing to play a mediating role in conflict situations without claiming a monopoly or opposing other players, in particular the United Nations.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (2nd L) shakes hands with Libya's internationally recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni (C) ahead of their meeting in Moscow April 15, 2015. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov - RTR4XGB6

April has been a month of vibrant Russian foreign policy activity in the Middle East. A number of Middle Eastern leaders visited Moscow; Russian diplomats held the second consultative meeting between representatives of the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition; Russian planes evacuated all Russian citizens from Yemen, as well as citizens other countries, including the United States and Europe; Russia took an active part in reaching an interim solution in the Iranian nuclear talks; and Russian diplomats have been working on draft resolutions at the UN Security Council.

Some of the Russian leadership's decisions turned out to be rather unexpected. These included President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that a ban on deliveries of S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to Iran be lifted, causing a negative reaction from some influential global and regional players, especially Israel, with which Russia has recently been successfully developing multilateral cooperation. Significantly, when explaining this decision, Russian officials put forward both commercial and reputational arguments related to the suspension of the contract with Iran between 2007 and 2010, as well as political ones.

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