Russian President Vladmir Putin visited Israel and the West Bank on Tuesday as part of a whirlwind tour of the Middle East. The administration in Moscow has lost some credibility in the region as a result of its support of the Assad regime in Syria. It now hopes to rebuild its reputation by brokering a regional peace conference.Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with Putin in Bethlehem to discuss a host of concerns, according to Maâ€™an News Agency. Among the top issues in the meeting was the potential role Russia could play in mediating peace between Israel and Palestine. Abbas specifically asked Putin to pass along a message to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu indicating the Palestinian Authorityâ€™s interest in returning to the negotiating table, reports Maâ€™an.
Netanyahu passed along a similar message to Putin during his own meeting with the Russian President earlier that day, according to Al-Jazeera English.
The majority of the Jerusalem meeting centered on Israelâ€™s fear of a potential Iranian nuclear weapon, despite zero evidence for the existence of such a weapon, and the security concerns for Israel stemming from the Arab Spring.
Moscow has spent much of the past several years trying to forge a larger role for itself in the Middle East. President Putin has stated publically that his administration hopes to host a series of regional peace conferences. Russia is particularly interested in acting as a broker between Israel and Palestine.