Russia seeks Arab help in Palestine-Israel peace revival

Moscow says the prospects are brighter now Trump has left the White House

epa08966590 Israeli soldiers check the area where a Palestinian man was shot dead reportedly while attempting a stab attack near the Jewish settlement of Ariel south of Nablus City, 26 January 2021.  EPA/ALAA BADARNEH
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Russia on Wednesday outlined plans to reinvigorate the stalled peace process between Palestinians and Israelis by inviting Arab ministers to talks on the decades-old conflict with the UN, US and EU in the coming months.

Russia's deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said that Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain could join the Quartet grouping of the US, EU, Russia and the UN for a "Quartet plus" ministerial-level video conference in the late spring or early summer.

Mr Polyanskiy described an opportunity for renewed diplomacy after "encouraging initial signals" from US President Joe Biden, who has quickly distanced himself from the previous Trump administration's deal-making, which favoured Israel and was rejected by Palestinians.

"Now we see some encouraging signals from the new administration that would be more devoted to collective efforts and formats. And we think that the Quartet is the most becoming framework for this," Mr Polyanskiy said.

“We think that regional players are also very much welcome to bring added value to this work.”

At UN Security Council talks this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the talks would offer a “platform for carrying out a complete analysis of the situation and helping countries to launch a dialogue”.

The plan brings together Jordan and Egypt, which have long-standing peace treaties with Israel, as well as Bahrain and the UAE, which agreed to normalise relations with Israel last year in deals brokered by the Trump administration.

"If there is a genuine wish for normalisation of relations between certain Arab countries and Israel, we could only welcome this trend," Mr Polyanskiy said in response to a question from The National.

Moscow was engaging with Arab diplomats about the talks, he said.

China voiced support for Russia's plan, and UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the organisation would "analyse the proposal".

"We've always called for a renewal of the activities of the Quartet, which is something that we hope we will see," Mr Dujarric said.

Under Mr Trump, the US cut financial aid to Palestinians, recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moved the US embassy to the city, a series of moves that sought to pressure Palestinians to agree to the former president's so-called deal of the century.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected Mr Trump's deal. Instead, he called for an international conference on Palestinian-Israeli tension, but Israeli officials say the conflict will be resolved only through direct talks between the two sides.

The Biden administration said this week it would renew its broken relationship with the Palestinians, and that it would restore funding to Palestinian refugees and reopen Palestinian offices that were closed in the Trump era.