Russia says Abbas to visit Moscow for first time since 2021

Foreign policy adviser refuses to disclose itinerary for PA president’s visit, which comes after November postponement and Kremlin-hosted Fatah-Hamas talks

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

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will visit Moscow, Russian news agencies reported on Tuesday.

Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov was quoted by state news agency TASS as saying that the sides had agreed on the timing of the meeting. However, he did not disclose the precise dates or whom Abbas would meet in Russia.

It was also unclear whether representatives of Palestinian factions other than Abbas’s Fatah would participate in the state visit, which will be the PA president’s first to Moscow since 2021.

Ushakov’s announcement came after Abbas postponed a planned November trip to Moscow.

At the time, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said the meeting had been postponed at the Palestinians’ request, as the “difficult” situation in the Middle East made Abbas unable to leave the region. Bogdanov added that Russia was “maintaining working contact [with the Palestinian side] constantly by phone.”

In February, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated that Abbas was welcome in Russia.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (C) recites a prayer during a meeting with members of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in the West Bank city of Ramallah on June 24, 2024. (Thaer Ghanaim / PPO / AFP)

“Abbas has an open invitation. We hope that the visit will take place at a time convenient for both sides,” Peskov was quoted as saying by Russia’s RIA state news agency.

Abbas has over the past few months attempted to overhaul the PA, appointing a new cabinet and enacting reforms to make the body more transparent, amid White House assertions that only a “revamped” PA could govern Gaza once the war between Israel and Hamas ends.

In addition to the PA, Russia has relations with both Israel and Hamas, which Moscow does not consider a terrorist organization.

Moscow had in March hosted unity talks between Hamas and its rival faction Fatah — Abbas’s secularist party, which dominates the West Bank-based PA. The Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad also participated in the talks.

Fatah and Hamas officials wait for a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, February 12, 2019. (AP/Pavel Golovkin)

Further reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah held in China in April were indefinitely delayed on Monday, with analysts holding out little hope for a unity agreement between the two long-feuding factions.

Hamas violently banished Fatah from Gaza a year after wining the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, which were held shortly after Israel’s military withdrawal from the Strip.

Russia, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, has used its veto power on the panel to the benefit of Hamas amid the war in Gaza, which was sparked on October 7, when the terror group led a thousands-strong onslaught on southern Israel that killed nearly 1,200 people and saw over 250 taken hostage.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, and China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun, center left, speak with ambassadors of Arab countries before a Security Council meeting and vote on a resolution on the war in Gaza, at UN Headquarters in New York, March 25, 2024. At center is Malta’s UN Ambassador Vanessa Frazier, and at center right is Riyad Mansour, the PA envoy to the UN. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Hamas voiced “appreciation” for Russia in March, after it, along with China, vetoed a UNSC resolution urging a truce and hostage release, whose wording, according to the terror group, gave Israel “cover and legitimacy to commit a genocidal war against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.”

Russia has said that it wants to help resolve the conflict in the Middle East and that peace will not be possible without the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Israel’s relations with Russia, already strained due to Moscow’s alliance with Iran, have deteriorated throughout the war in Gaza. Jerusalem reportedly summoned the Russian ambassador for a reprimand in March after Moscow’s UN envoy cast doubt on Israeli accounts of Hamas’s sexual violence on October 7.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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