Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 178

Russian president Boris Yeltsin charged on September 23 that Israel is responsible for the breakdown of peace talks in the Middle East and he declared that Russia would work to raise its own diplomatic profile in the region. Yeltsin’s remarks followed a meeting in Moscow with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. It was Mubarak’s first visit to Russia since before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. He returned to Egypt yesterday.

Yeltsin, who also called upon the U.S. to step up its own peace efforts in the Middle East, was quoted as saying that the crisis in the region would be difficult to overcome "largely because of Israel’s unconstructive position." Yeltsin appeared to dismiss Israeli assertions that Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat should be held responsible for recent terrorist acts conducted against Israel. Egypt’s foreign minister, who accompanied Mubarak, praised Yeltsin for his reaffirmation of Russia’s commitment to the "land for peace" principle, and said that Yeltsin intends in the coming weeks to dispatch Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov to the Middle East. Mubarak urged Russia to play a more decisive role in Middle Eastern affairs, and stated more generally that the peace process there "requires contributions from Russia, the United States, and the EU, because the Middle East is an area of vital interests for all three parties." Until now the U.S. has played by far the dominant peacemaking role in the region.

Mubarak and Yeltsin also issued a joint statement on international affairs that included several of the Kremlin’s standard diplomatic formulations. They included criticism of efforts to expand and strengthen military blocs — a clear reference to NATO’s enlargement — and a suggestion that the United Nations — and not NATO — must play the major role in dealing with international and local conflicts. But the statement implicitly criticized the UN for applying what it intimated are overly punitive sanctions on various members of the world community. Moscow has repeatedly made this argument with regard to UN. sanctions — real and threatened — on such countries as Iraq, Libya, and Serbia, nations with which Russia has friendly relations..

Russia and Egypt also signed a series of agreements on September 23 covering bilateral economic, scientific, and technical cooperation. During a meeting between Mubarak and Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin several additional intergovernmental accords were signed on the avoidance of double taxation, on fostering capital investments, and on cooperation in sea transportation. (Russian and Western agencies, September 23)

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