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 Ma’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 Authority’s interest in returning to the negotiating table, reports Ma’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 Israel’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.