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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Summit Plan: Decry 'All Terrorism'

President Boris Yeltsin will address leaders from 27 countries gathered Wednesday at a summit in Egypt on terrorism, in a move to restore Russia's global standing and enhance his own reputation as an international statesman ahead of the June presidential election.


The hastily convened Summit of Peacemakers, which opens Wednesday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik, is to focus on the Middle East peace process in the wake of a series of bomb attacks in Israel, but Yeltsin is also expected to take the opportunity to raise the issue of Chechnya.


In a Kremlin press briefing on Tuesday, Yeltsin's press secretary Sergei Medvedev affirmed Russia's condemnation of all forms of terrorism "whether it is terrorism in Israel or the actions of Chechen terrorists," Itar-Tass reported.


Medvedev said the Chechen problem could be included in Yeltsin's speech.


Addressing Russian parliamentary delegates to the Council of Europe on Tuesday, Yeltsin said he would be inviting summit participants to take part in an international forum in Moscow on ways of fighting terrorism, Interfax reported.


During the Cold War era, the Soviet Union was an outspoken champion of the Arab cause in the Middle East, although its influence in the region declined in recent years, as it forged closer links with Israel.


Russia maintains its status as a co-sponsor of the 1991 Madrid Middle East peace conference and Yeltsin's participation in the Sharm el-Sheik talks is seen as a bid to restore Russia's influence in the region.


Medvedev said Russia regarded relations between Israel and Syria as the key to a settlement.


"Russia is ready to involve itself in this, to find the right course and move swiftly along this course," Medvedev said.


The Israelis broke off talks with Syria earlier this month after a wave of suicide bombings in Israel that left 58 people dead.


The summit, however, is being boycotted by Syria.


Reuters quoted a statement by the Syrian Communist Party, a member of the ruling Baath coalition, as saying that the meeting was aimed at forming an unholy Arab alliance and at boosting the re-election prospects of U.S. President Bill Clinton and Yeltsin.


"The summit is aimed at backing [Israeli Prime Minister Shimon] Peres and providing indirect support to President Clinton in the forthcoming U.S. presidential elections. Yeltsin's presence at the summit does not exceed the mentioned objectives," the statement said.


Analysts in Moscow have also linked Yeltsin's participation with his election campaign, noting that his presence will enhance his authority on the world stage as well as testifying to his physical fitness after two bouts of heart trouble last year.


Medvedev said Yeltsin would be accompanied to Egypt by Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, an Arab specialist, as well as Federal Security Service chief Mikhail Barsukov and Vyacheslav Trubnikov, head of the Foreign Intelligence Service.


Since Primakov took over as foreign minister in January from his predecessor, Andrei Kozyrev, the emphasis on Russian foreign policy has moved away from rapprochement with the West toward building relations with the former Soviet republics, China and the Middle East.


In a gesture clearly aimed at endorsing this approach, Yeltsin told the parliamentary delegates that he was giving Primakov personal responsibility for coordinating foreign relations with the outside world, Interfax reported, adding that in the past there had been "some lack of coordination in this area."


"In the past [government officials] made statements without talking to the Foreign Ministry first, which led to inaccurate concepts about Russia's foreign policy," Medvedev said.


Shortly before his dismissal, Kozyrev complained that his ministry was not being consulted about negotiations with NATO over Russia's involvement in peacekeeping in the former Yugoslavia and accused Defense Minister Pavel Grachev of going over his head to report directly to Yeltsin.


His remarks followed an announcement by Yeltsin that he was taking personal charge of foreign policy because he was dissatisfied with Kozyrev's work.