Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 166

In a statement released by his press secretary, Russian president Boris Yeltsin on September 5 condemned the deadly terrorist attack launched one day earlier on a busy pedestrian street in Jerusalem. Yeltsin urged that the "forces of terror and extremism" not be allowed to disrupt the Middle East peace process, and he called for a "resolute and uncompromising fight" against such acts." Yeltsin’s remarks were echoed by Russia’s Foreign Ministry, which said in an official statement that Moscow "resolutely condemns those who stand behind" such terrorist acts. The statement also observed that the September 5 attack was clearly aimed at plunging the region once again "into a bloody spiral of force, terror, and hatred" on the eve of a new round of peace talks and the arrival of U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright. The Kremlin had announced on September 4 that it would dispatch its own envoy to the Middle East this week as well. (Russian agencies, September 4-5)

In a Moscow radio interview, Israel’s ambassador to Russia, Aliza Shenhar, laid the blame for the September 4 attack squarely on Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat. In that context, she repeated oft-stated appeals from Israel that Moscow use its influence with the Palestinians and with other Arab leaders to prevent any further resort to terror. (Russian agencies, September 5)

But despite Moscow’s condemnations of the latest violence in the region, Israel is unlikely to win Russian support for its position that the Palestinian authorities’ failure to root out terrorism is the cause of the breakdown in the Middle East peace process. Indeed, in a statement released on September 5, Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov called on both sides to observe agreements reached earlier — criticism clearly aimed at Israel — and to refrain from unilateral acts. On September 8 Moscow also criticized Israel for the unsuccessful commando raid launched by Israeli forces in southern Lebanon on September 5. (Russian agencies, September 5; Itar-Tass, September 8)

Three days before Albright’s arrival in the region, Arab leaders meeting in Cairo on September 7 called for Israel to fulfill its commitments under peace accords with the Palestinians. Clearly aimed at placing the onus for the latest outbreak of violence on the government of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the appeal is likely to be greeted with sympathy in Moscow, which is looking to rebuild its influence in the region and to play a greater role in the peace process there.

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