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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Warns of Clash of Civilizations

APPutin and a senior Russian Muslim, Haji Allahshukur Pashazadeh, looking as Metzger shows a photograph of Shali.
President Vladimir Putin urged religious leaders meeting in Moscow on Monday to counter what he said were efforts to set Christians and Muslims against each other, warning that a potential clash of civilizations could bring disaster.

"Attempts are being made to split the world on the basis of religion or ethnicity, to drive a wedge primarily between the Christian and Islamic communities," Putin said, opening a meeting of international religious leaders that aimed to craft a statement to be sent to the upcoming Group of Eight summit.

"In effect, a conflict of civilizations is being thrust upon the world," he said. He did not specify whom he believed was to blame, but added that "it is necessary to fully understand to what catastrophic consequences this confrontation could lead."

The religious leaders' conclave, which concludes Wednesday, was organized by the Russian Orthodox Church on the suggestion of Russia's Inter-Religious Council and includes representatives from some 40 countries.

The Vatican, which the Russian Orthodox Church accuses of poaching converts in Russia, sent a high-level delegation headed by Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Vatican's Council for Christian Unity.

Terrorism appeared likely to be the summit's top issue. "It is impossible to effectively fight strife, violence, vices, extremism and terror without a spiritual and moral basis in the life of the people," Patriarch Alexy II said.

Ayatollah Ali Tashiri, head of Iran's Islamic Culture and Relations Organization, told the summit's opening meeting that "the root of terrorism is poverty, injustice and the absence of moral values," and praised Putin for efforts to improve Russia's relations with the Islamic world.

Yona Metzger, the chief rabbi of Israel, in turn denounced Islamist violence as a misuse of that religion's precepts. "What right do they have to use the name of Islam, a peaceful religion, for murder," he said. He showed a photo of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shali.