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October 13, 2022 2:26 pm
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Palestinian Leader Abbas Lavishes Praise on Putin During Summit Meeting

avatar by Ben Cohen

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kazakh capital Astana. Photo: Reuters/Vyacheslav Prokofyev

The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, heaped praise upon Russian leader Vladimir Putin during a face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of an international summit in Kazakhstan on Thursday.

Addressing Putin directly at a bilateral meeting in the Kazakh capital Astana, Abbas thanked the Russian president for having earlier restated his commitment to resolving the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel on what he termed an “international legal basis,” according to remarks published on the Kremlin’s official website.

“We always and unfailingly believe and know that Russia has a clear position on the solution, and I am absolutely sure that it will never change,” Abbas declared. “We know perfectly well that Russia stands for justice, for international law…We are glad that we have such a partner in Russia.”

Putin arrived in Kazakhstan on Thursday to attend a summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) — a 27 member body originally created in 1999 that includes Israel as well as several of the Jewish state’s hardline regional adversaries, among them the Palestinian Authority, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan. As well as Abbas, Putin met with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

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In a speech to delegates at the conference, Putin depicted western nations as bent on exploiting the developing world. “Like many of our partners in Asia, we believe a revision is needed of the global financial system, which has for decades allowed the self-proclaimed so-called ‘golden billion’, who redirected all capital flows and technologies to themselves to live largely at others’ expense,” he stated.

The encounter between Abbas and Putin studiously avoided any mention of Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine, which has escalated in recent days. Earlier this week, Putin appointed Gen. Sergei Surovikin — whose nickname is “General Armageddon” — to lead Russia’s military campaign, resulting in intensive missile strikes against civilian targets in Kyiv, Mykolaiv and other Ukrainian cities. A children’s playground in the Ukrainian capital was among the sites struck by the Russian bombardment.

Abbas urged the Russian leader to intensify his efforts to resolve the Palestinian question, emphasizing that “we do not want America, under any cover, under any umbrella, to single-handedly deal with the solution of the Palestinian problem.” He also issued an urgent appeal for food aid, saying: “We are talking about delivering Russian wheat to us from time to time. You know our needs, you know the format of this request.”

At the beginning of their meeting, Putin assured Abbas that Russia was committed to resolving the conflict with Israel “based on the fundamental decisions of the United Nations.”

“There are no doubts here, we have always stood for a fair settlement on an international legal basis,” Putin continued.

For its part, the Palestinian Authority has vocally backed Russia since Moscow’s troops breached the Ukrainian border on Feb. 27.

During a phone call in April between Abbas and Putin, in which the Russian leader pledged to provide the Palestinians with wheat and other crops, Abbas underlined that Palestinian diplomats would continue to back Moscow at the UN and other international forums. At one point, Putin — regarded for much of his career as positively disposed towards Israel and Jews more generally — told Abbas of his “rejection of the Israeli practices that prevent worshippers from freely accessing the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the need to respect the existing historical status quo at Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem,” a talking point often invoked by Israel’s more visceral critics. A statement issued by the Russian foreign ministry on the same day slammed Israel’s “illegal occupation” and “creeping annexation of Palestinian territories.”

More recently, the commander of the Palestinian security force, Maj. Gen. Nidal Abu Dukhan, met with Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin at a military forum in Moscow at the end of August, where they discussed military and intelligence cooperation.

Abbas has a close personal relationship with Russia that mirrors the historically warm ties between Moscow and the PLO. In the early 1980s, Abbas studied in the Soviet Union, where he was awarded a doctorate for a dissertation falsely alleging that the Zionist movement was just as culpable as the Nazi regime for the Holocaust during World War II.

In 2016, Israeli researchers at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem discovered a Soviet-era document that listed Abbas as an agent for the KGB spy agency — an allegation the Palestinian leader dismissed as an Israeli fabrication.

The document, confirmed as authentic by the Churchill Archives Centre at the University of Cambridge in the UK, identified Abbas as “Krotov” — the Russian word for “mole.” The entry for Abbas described him as “born 1935, origin Palestine, member of the executive committee of Fatah, PLO, Damascus, agent of the KGB.”

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