Bush borrows a page from Putin’s Middle East playbook

Published on Russian News & Information Agency, by Marianna Belenkaya, July 17,

2 excerpts: For everything there is a season, we have been told. Nowhere is that more true than in the Middle East. George W. Bush should therefore be commended for borrowing the idea of holding a Middle East peace conference from Vladimir Putin.

The Russian president first made the proposal over two years ago, but the time was not quite right. The U.S. president, it seems, has resurrected Putin’s idea in a last ditch effort to keep his own Middle Eastern policy afloat.

He called on all “countries in the region that support a two-state solution to the long Israeli-Palestinian standoff” to gather in the autumn for a conference “headed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.”

The call came on July 16, shortly before a ministerial meeting of Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations-the members of the Middle East “quartet”-to be held in Lisbon on July 19. Initially scheduled for the end of June, the meeting was put off after Hamas took over Gaza …

… Better late than never is the only thing we can say about the peace conference. But then, to help Fatah and Hamas reconcile their differences is the last thing the United States wants, while peace is hardly possible with a conflict raging in Palestine. President Bush’s idea may be a desperate attempt to save his Middle East policy after he promised to settle the conflict back in 2002 and later shifted his efforts to Iraq, making a mess of everything.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated Moscow’s stance at the beginning of July-that is, before Bush’s call for a conference. “Russia supports realistic ideas for normalizing the situation, mainly those concerning the humanitarian situation in Gaza, in the broader context of reviving Palestinian unity, which is essential for resuming the regional peace process.” The minister’s words are fully applicable to the conference plan.

Russia has some time before the autumn during which it can take part in elaborating on the American idea, however frustrating it might be for Moscow that its own similar, and earlier, idea was buried. But then, Russia, remembering the most important teaching of communism, prefers the common good to its own personal ambitions, a principle it has demonstrated repeatedly in its efforts to resolve the Middle East conflict. (full text).

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