Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 138

Speaking on the eve of talks in Moscow with Egyptian foreign minister Amr Moussa, a top Russian diplomat said yesterday that Moscow intends "to undertake a series of new steps and measures" aimed at furthering the Middle East peace process and Russia’s role in it. According to Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk, the peace process will get top billing during the talks with Moussa. Other international issues on the agenda include UN activities, sanctions against Libya, Iran, and the battle against terrorism. The two sides also intend to discuss bilateral relations and related trade issues, including military-technical cooperation. Posuvalyuk suggested that the absence of debts between Cairo and Moscow would simplify the trade talks.

Moscow sees in recent Middle Eastern developments, and particularly the election in Israel of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an opportunity to increase its influence in the region, and has joined with Arab leaders in demanding that "peace for land" remain the basis for peace talks in the region. That formulation has been rejected by Netanyahu, and Moussa’s visit to Moscow, several weeks before a scheduled trip by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to the U.S., is aimed at pressuring Washington to bring Israel back into line. Moscow was a co-sponsor of the 1991 Madrid conference that launched the current peace process and that set out the principle of "land for peace." But Russia’s influence in the region has declined precipitously since then. According to Posuvalyuk, Moscow began working to reverse that trend in January of this year, when Middle East expert Yevgeny Primakov was named Russian foreign minister.

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