Russian President Vladimir Putin pushes need for talks in calls with Israeli, Arab and Iranian leaders


Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on operational issues, including the  continuing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, on October 16, 2023.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on operational issues, including the continuing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, on October 16, 2023.
| Photo Credit: Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on October 16 that Moscow wanted to help prevent a humanitarian disaster in Gaza as he waded into the Middle East crisis with a flurry of calls to key regional players.

The Kremlin said Mr. Putin expressed Russia's willingness to work towards “ending the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation and achieving a peaceful settlement through political and diplomatic means”.

Its readout of the call did not include any mention of the ceasefire that Russia is trying to achieve by putting forward a resolution in the United Nations Security Council.

But Mr. Putin briefed Mr. Netanyahu on conversations with the leaders of Iran, Egypt, Syria and the Palestinian Authority in which the Kremlin said earlier that this had been discussed.

“A unanimous opinion was expressed on the need for an early ceasefire and the establishment of a humanitarian truce in order to urgently provide assistance to all those in need,” it said of those conversations.

“There was also serious concern about the likelihood of the conflict escalating into a regional war.”

The crisis has partly diverted the world's attention from Russia's war in Ukraine, providing Moscow with an opportunity to demonstrate its strong ties with all the key players in the Middle East and cast itself as a voice for peace and restraint.

It has repeatedly blamed past U.S. policy failures for creating the conditions that led to the latest explosion of violence in the Middle East.

Condolences to Netanyahu

The Kremlin said Putin expressed his condolences to Netanyahu over the deaths of more than 1,300 Israelis in a wave of attacks launched from Gaza on Oct.7 by Islamist militant group Hamas.

He also told Mr. Netanyahu about “the steps Russia is taking to help normalize the situation, prevent further escalation of violence and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip”.

Israel has responded to the attacks with 10 days of intense bombing that Gaza authorities say has killed at least 2,750 people, mostly civilians. Putin said last week that Israel had the right to defend itself but that an Israeli ground offensive in Gaza would lead to an “absolutely unacceptable” number of civilian casualties.

Iranian state media said President Ebrahim Raisi told Putin in their conversation that supporting the Palestinians was Iran's foreign policy priority but “resistance” groups made their own independent decisions.

They quoted Raisi as saying: “There is a possibility of the conflict between Israel and Palestinians expanding to other fronts.”

Putin also spoke to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Palestinan President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whom he asked for assistance from Cairo in evacuating Russian citizens from Gaza, the Kremlin said.

The Kremlin leader was also shown discussing the Middle East and Ukraine at a televised meeting with officials including spy chiefs and his defence minister.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Putin that the situation was worsening and Israeli army actions were “indiscriminate”.

“The threat is high that this whole conflict gets out of control,” Ryabkov said. (Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in Moscow, Mark Trevelyan in London, Parisa Hafezi in Dubai; Editing by Rod Nickel)

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