Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 202

Approaching the conclusion of a week-long visit to the Middle East (see also, Monitor, October 27) , Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov yesterday returned to an old Kremlin theme by criticizing Washington’s dominant peace-making role in the region and calling for broader participation — by Russia and Europe — in the peace process there. Primakov suggested that he has been in contact with European leaders with this goal in mind. His remarks yesterday followed separate meetings in Amman with Jordan’s prime minister and foreign minister. Primakov later held talks with Jordan’s King Hussein, during which the Russian minister emphasized the need for "synchronized efforts in all directions — Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese" as the only way to revive the stalled peace process. Primakov is set to visit Egypt today, the last stage of his Middle Eastern tour. (UPI, Itar-Tass, October 28)

Although Russia’s efforts to resuscitate the former Soviet Union’s influence in the Middle East have been welcomed by a number of Arab leaders, Primakov appeared to make little headway during a visit to Israel on October 26. Tensions between Israel and Russia, which stem primarily from Israeli accusations that Russia is providing military aid for Iran, only increased on October 27 when Primakov announced that his government would be one of the first to recognize a Palestinian state should it declare its independence. The statement, which followed talks with Palestinian president Yasser Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah, came one day after Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his government’s opposition to Palestinian independence. In an effort at "shuttle" diplomacy, Primakov also made an unscheduled return visit to Damascus on October 27, during which he briefed President Hafez Assad on his talks with Israeli leaders and reportedly raised "several ideas about Russia’s vision of ways to resume the peace negotiations." (UPI, Russian agencies, October 27)

In Moscow, meanwhile, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman yesterday charged that allegations of illegal Russian arms dealings with Iran are part of a cynical effort by Israel and the U.S. to keep Moscow from playing a more influential role in the Middle East. Valery Nesterushkin again denied that Russia is helping Iran in any way to acquire missile or nuclear weapons technology. The Kremlin’s chief press spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, sounded a similar theme yesterday by accusing the U.S. and Israel of conducting a coordinated — and "unscrupulous" — campaign aimed at pressuring Russia to curtail its economic cooperation with Iran. "We have been trading and we will continue to trade with Iran — for us Iran is an important partner," Yastrzhembsky said. (Russian agencies, October 28)

Russian Air Force to Get New Blackjack Strategic Bombers.