MOSCOW OFFERS SUPPORT TO DAMASCUS.
Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 102
President Boris Yeltsin assured Syria on May 21 that it has Moscow’s support and said that Russia intends to do all it can to advance the Middle East peace process. Yeltsin’s remarks, conveyed to reporters by a Kremlin press spokesman, came during a telephone conversation with visiting Syrian foreign minister Farouk Sharaa. Yeltsin also told Sharaa that the Golan Heights should be returned by Israel to Syria, as was agreed to at the 1991 Madrid peace conference. That remark was amplified by Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov, who, following talks with Sharaa, said that "security cannot be guaranteed in the region until all land occupied in previous wars is returned." Primakov said that Russia is prepared to back a new round of peace talks and called for Europe to become more involved in the Middle East peace process. (UPI, Itar-Tass, May 21)
Moscow has long been looking to reassert its influence in the Middle East, and undoubtedly views the current impasse in peace talks there as an opportunity to do so. Syria seeks likewise to bring new players into the negotiations in order to diminish the dominant diplomatic role of Washington, which Syria sees as too supportive of Israel. Primakov’s remarks reflect that strategy, and are aimed also at enticing Europe — which, like Russia, has felt itself fenced out by U.S. peace efforts in the region — to assert a stronger role in the peace process.
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