Russian president: Israel must respect holy site status quo

In call with PA’s Abbas, Putin said to criticize Israeli policies at Al-Aqsa Mosque

Russian leader backs Palestinians amid violence in Jerusalem, PA news agency reports; also says Moscow will provide Ramallah with food and materials amid rising global prices

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, right, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during their meeting at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Bethlehem, January 23, 2020. (Alexander Nemenov, Pool via AP)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, right, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during their meeting at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Bethlehem, January 23, 2020. (Alexander Nemenov, Pool via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin held a phone call Monday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss tensions in Jerusalem and negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, the Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported.

According to the report, Putin updated Abbas on “Russia’s special military operation to defend the Donbas region” in eastern Ukraine. The phone call reportedly took place at the Palestinian leader’s behest.

With the war in Ukraine driving up food prices globally, Putin also assured Abbas during the phone call that Moscow will provide the Palestinians with “Russian wheat, materials, and crops.”

The Palestinian official news agency Wafa said that Putin “stressed Russia’s firm position in support of the rights of the Palestinian people, and that Russia will continue to accord its political support to the Palestinian cause in all international forums, and what is happening in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Wafa also reported that the Russian leader rejected “the Israeli practices that prevent worshipers from freely accessing the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” adding that Israel must “respect the existing historical status quo” at the holy site.

Russia has long been a champion of the Palestinian cause, with PA hoping Moscow will play a more central role in mediating between it and Israel.

Abbas updated Putin on the “daily incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque by extremist Israelis under the protection of the Israeli occupation forces,” according to Wafa.

Palestinians shoot fireworks at Israeli police officers in the Old City of Jerusalem, April 17, 2022. (AP Photo/ Mahmoud Illean)

Sunday saw Palestinian rioters throw rocks at Israeli buses en route to the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, as well as in the Temple Mount compound, in an attempt to prevent non-Muslims from touring the site.

Police responded by entering the complex and dispersing the crowd with riot control measures.

According to the Red Crescent, 17 Palestinians were treated for injuries sustained Sunday morning in clashes with police at the site, five of whom were taken to the hospital. Police said that nine Palestinians were arrested.

Police said officers worked to distance the Palestinians to allow the Temple Mount visits to go ahead, and Jewish visitors were later seen touring the site. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that Israeli forces have “free rein” to continue operations to maintain security while stressing that officials were working to restore calm.

On Friday, almost 500 Palestinians were arrested after riots at the contested holy site — the holiest place in Judaism as the home of the biblical temples, and site of the third holiest shrine in Islam — with over 150 injured in clashes with Israeli security officials.

The recent clashes were also addressed Sunday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who said in a tweet that his country “will always stay by the Palestinians’ side,” as well as Jordan’s King Abdullah II, with Abbas asking for the US to intervene in the matter.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) welcomes King Abdullah II of Jordan (L) accompanied by Crown Prince Hussein (C), ahead of a meeting in Ramallah in the West Bank, on March 28, 2022. (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)

The phone call between Putin and Abbas also comes amid rising tensions between Israel and Russia over the former’s stance regarding the war in Ukraine.

Russia on Sunday summoned Israel’s ambassador to Moscow, Alexander Ben Zvi, for a dressing down after last week condemning Israel for supporting Moscow’s suspension from the UN Human Rights Council over its invasion of Ukraine.

A Russian foreign ministry statement released on Friday accused Foreign Minister Yair Lapid of an “anti-Russian attack” with his comments after the General Assembly vote last week, which marked only the second time a country has been stripped of its membership rights on the council.

“There is an effort to take advantage of the situation around Ukraine to distract the international community from one of the longest unresolved conflicts — the Palestinian-Israeli,” the ministry said.

The statement went on to rail at Israel for “the illegal occupation and creeping annexation of Palestinian territories.” It also bashed the blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, which Israel says is needed to prevent arms from reaching terror groups in the enclave.

“It is also noteworthy that… the longest occupation in the post-war world history is carried out with the tacit connivance of the leading Western countries and the actual support of the United States,” the statement charged.

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