The Jordan Times
February 17, 2009 - 1:00am

Russia is pushing for a Middle East peace conference in Moscow this summer, to follow up on the 2007 Annapolis meeting that failed to deliver on its promises.

During hisrecent visit for talks with Israeli leaders, including President Shimon Peres, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and Kadima and Likud leaders Tzipi Livni and Benjamin Netanyahu, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov raised this Russian idea and offered additional assurances that the peace process will not be complicated by inviting Hamas for talks or pushing for a fast Syrian-track negotiations.

These Russian assurances must please the Israeli leaders across the wide political spectrum and are bound to be enough to win them over in favour of holding the conference.

So far, the US and Israel have been lukewarm to the Russian initiative for fear that Moscow has ulterior motives.

There is now competition between Russia and France to convene a follow-up peace conference with Paris more inclined than other major powers to highlight the Syrian track.

There is no doubt that both Palestinian and Syrian tracks are important and must be pursued with equal vigor and determination. Still, the Palestinian front requires priority consideration, especially in the aftermath of the “Operation Cast Lead” Israel inflicted on Gaza last month.

The Russian proposal deserves support in view of the many developments since the Annapolis conference. Moscow has clout with all the parties and must be given the opportunity to actively participate in a new conference that may also address anxieties about the Iranian nuclear programme and the mounting violence in Afghanistan.

Russia is conversant with the regional situation, probably much more so than other Western powers, and its involvement could provide some balance to the skewed American approach.

The Arab-Israeli conflict, while the oldest and most in need of a solution, can no longer be pursued in isolation from other major flash points in the region, especially Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hopefully the agenda of a Russian-sponsored peace conference will attempt to deal with all the conflicts in the region. All avenues must be explored in a bid to finally solve the protracted problems that afflict the Middle East.


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