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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia May Send Peacekeepers to Iraq

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Thursday that Russia may send peacekeepers to Iraq as part of an international force, a strong signal that Moscow is edging closer to Washington in efforts to rebuild Iraq.

"It all depends on a specific resolution. I wouldn't exclude it outright," Ivanov said during Russian military maneuvers in the southern Astrakhan region, when asked whether Moscow would contribute peacekeepers to Iraq, Interfax reported.

Ivanov's statement, which precedes President Vladimir Putin's visit to the United States set for later this month, appears to be an attempt to bolster ties with Washington, badly hurt by a rift over the war in Iraq. Russia had vociferously opposed the war and after its end pushed for the United Nations to take charge.

Ivanov said Thursday that Russia's decision will hinge on discussions in the UN Security Council on a new U.S.-proposed draft resolution to give the United Nations a greater role in Iraq.

"Everything depends on unity of opinion in the UN Security Council on whether it will be really able to influence the development of the situation in Iraq," Ivanov said.

The United States wants the United Nations to vote soon on the proposed resolution that would expand the UN's role in governing Iraq and providing security. The U.S. draft offers the United Nations a greater role in peacekeeping in Iraq, although U.S. commanders will retain control.

Ivanov would not say whether Moscow might acquiesce to the U.S. command of a future UN peacekeeping force. He said only that the final decision on whether to send Russian peacekeepers "will depend on the unity in the international community on how fully and scrupulously international legal norms are observed in Iraq."

Ivanov said Russia is very concerned over the latest violence in Iraq.

"Terror attacks continue unabated and terrorists of all kinds are heading to Iraq," he said. "Russia is vitally interested in the quickest possible restoration of legitimate authorities and law and order in Iraq."

Russian officials have avoided direct comments on the U.S.-proposed draft UN resolution circulated Wednesday, but Russia's Foreign Ministry on Thursday reaffirmed Moscow's push for a quick transfer from the U.S.-backed interim administration in Iraq to a sovereign government to help restore peace.

"We believe that only the quickest creation of representative and internationally recognized power bodies can ensure stabilization of the situation in the country and restoration of its sovereignty," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said in a statement.

He also welcomed an international conference on aid to Iraq set for October in Madrid, Spain, as "an important step in coordinating international efforts to help the postwar economic restoration of Iraq." Russia will send a delegation to the conference, he added.

On Saturday, President Vladimir Putin said Russia was open to the creation of a multinational force with an American commander, but stressed that the UN must be granted a stronger role in postwar Iraq, particularly in political and economic affairs.

The business daily Kommersant warned that Russia's failure to back the U.S. policy in Iraq could further damage relations with Washington already hurt by Kremlin criticism of the war and deal a strong blow to Moscow's economic interests in Iraq.

"Moscow has to choose whether to remain a bystanding observer and independent critic or get involved in the difficult and dangerous process of peace settlement," Kommersant said. "In the first case we won't get anything, in the second case we may hope to get some dividends."

Moscow wants to get a share of Iraq rebuilding contracts and has pushed for the fulfillment of lucrative oil contracts that Russian companies signed with Saddam Hussein's regime and repayment of Baghdad's $8 billion debt to Russia.