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Moscow looks to expand role in Mideast peace process

Official Russian statements on the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas indicate Moscow is looking for a larger diplomatic role.

On May 21, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed support for the Israel-Hamas cease-fire and called for an urgent meeting of the Middle East Quartet to prevent a relapse into conflict. These comments built on other Russian statements that called earlier for a cease-fire in Gaza and a pathway toward a lasting peace. On May 14, President Vladimir Putin claimed that the Israel-Gaza conflict threatened Russia’s security and on May 19, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned Israel that further civilian casualties in Gaza would be “unacceptable.” The head of the Russian State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Leonid Slutsky also reiterated Russia’s willingness to host negotiations on a Palestinian-Israeli settlement.

Russia’s response to the recent events in Gaza reflects its desire to expand its diplomatic role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. On March 31, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov restated Moscow’s wish to host Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas both expressed a willingness to accept Russian mediation. During the conflict, Russia engaged in shuttle diplomacy with the warring parties and external stakeholders to facilitate a cease-fire. After the deputy chairman of Hamas’s political bureau, Moussa Abu Marzouk, told Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov on May 12 that Hamas desired a cease-fire, Russia consulted with Egypt, Jordan, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on ending the conflict.

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