YELTSIN TRAVELS TO JORDAN FOR KING HUSSEIN’S FUNERAL.
Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 26
President Boris Yeltsin, for months an increasingly negligible force in Russian foreign policy, defied his doctors and surprised his detractors when he flew to Amman earlier today at the head of a Russian delegation attending the funeral of Jordan’s King Hussein. “I came to pay my deepest condolences to the Jordanian people,” Yeltsin reportedly said upon his arrival. It is the ailing Russian president’s first foreign visit in some six months, a period during which ill health has forced him to cancel numerous meetings with foreign leaders and high-level officials.
Yeltsin’s arrival in the Jordanian capital followed–perhaps not surprisingly–several hours of confusion in Moscow during which some press agency reports said that Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, and not Yeltsin, would be leading the Russian delegation in Amman (Reuters, Washington Post, February 8; AP, February 7). Primakov has stepped in for Yeltsin diplomatically on a number of occasions in recent months. It might have been thought that the former spymaster and foreign minister–who is an Arabist by training–would be the more obvious choice to travel to Jordan on this occasion.
Yeltsin’s surprise decision to make the trip, though obviously significant to Russian domestic politics, may also reflect a Kremlin effort to underscore Moscow’s interest in the Middle East. While the Soviet Union was a co-sponsor of the 1991 Madrid peace process, post-Soviet Russia has in recent years struggled to restore its once considerable influence in the region. Russian sources suggested yesterday that Yeltsin might also use the trip to Amman to hold brief talks with French President Jacques Chirac and U.S. President Bill Clinton (Reuters, February 8).
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