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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Pledges to Assist Mideast Peace

President Vladimir Putin told visiting Israeli President Moshe Katsav on Tuesday that Russia would try to help reach peace in the Middle East and further boost ties with Israel.

"We strongly expect that Russia’s efforts will help your country and other participants in the process to solve the difficult problems they are facing," Putin said after welcoming Katsav in an ornate Kremlin hall. It was Katsav’s first visit to Russia as Israeli president, a largely ceremonial role.

Katsav, meanwhile, said that "there will be no war between Israel and the Palestinians in the near future. Such a dangerous development is not part of the plans of Israel or of other forces in the Middle East," Interfax reported.

Russia is a co-sponsor of the Mideast peace process along with the United States, but has played a comparatively small role. Since the Soviet collapse, Moscow has lost most of the clout it had with the Palestinians and other allies in the Arab world that the Soviets armed. Meanwhile, Moscow has developed friendly relations with Israel after decades of animosity.

"Our relations have been on the rise, although we haven’t yet achieved everything we planned with your colleagues," Putin said Tuesday, referring to previous pledges to up trade and economic ties.

Also, Russia’s attempts to help negotiate Mideast peace have brought little result so far. In November, Putin hosted Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and arranged for him to speak by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, but it failed to break the deadlock.

Putin also said that Moscow continues to be concerned about the hundreds of thousands of Russians and residents of other former Soviet republics who have emigrated to Israel.

The remarks contrasted sharply with Moscow’s treatment of emigres to Israel during Soviet times, when authorities hampered their departure efforts and described them as traitors to the motherland.