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Source: AP News

Oct 27, 2023

Iran’s deputy foreign minister met Hamas representatives in Moscow, Russian state media says

Iran’s deputy foreign minister for political affairs met Hamas representatives in Moscow, Russian state news agency Tass said Friday.

Iran discussed a cease-fire and providing humanitarian support to Gaza at Thursday’s meeting, Tass said.

The meeting is likely to draw condemnation from Israel, whose foreign ministry slammed Russia’s decision to invite Hamas representatives to Moscow as “an act of support of terrorism,” and called for the delegation to be expelled from Russia.

The Kremlin had responded by saying that Moscow believes it is necessary to maintain contacts with all parties.

The visit of the Iranian deputy foreign minister and the Hamas delegation highlights how Russia is trying to assert its role as a power broker in the Middle East conflict even though it continues to be occupied with its war in Ukraine.

It is not clear if representatives from Russia, Iran and Hamas all met together on Thursday. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the Kremlin did not have any contact with Hamas during the visit.

Tass reported that Ali Bagheri Kani, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for political affairs, told Abu Marzouk, who led the Hamas delegation, that Tehran’s “priority” in negotiations “is an immediate cease-fire, providing assistance to the people and lifting the repressive blockade of Gaza.”

On Thursday, Kani also met with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who serves as the Kremlin envoy for the Middle East.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said their talks also focused on ceasing hostilities in Gaza and providing humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians. In a separate meeting, Bogdanov met the Hamas representative to discuss the release of hostages in the Gaza Strip and the evacuation of foreigners.

Although busy with its war in Ukraine, Russia is trying to still take on a key role in the Middle East conflict. Putin declared earlier this month that Moscow could play the role of mediator thanks to its friendly ties with both Israel and the Palestinians, adding that “no one could suspect us of playing up to one party.”

Despite that claim of even-handedness, a U.N. Security Council resolution that Russia previously submitted condemning violence against civilians made no mention of Hamas. It was rejected by the council.

Russia has issued carefully calibrated criticism of both sides in the war between Israel and Hamas as it is trying to balance ties between Israel and Iran, which supports Hamas.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia and Israel have steadily expanded trade and security ties and many Russians moved to Israel after Putin invaded Ukraine. But that invasion has tested relations — Israel has voiced support for Kyiv but refused to provide it with weapons, while many Israelis were angered by Putin’s claim that Ukraine’s Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is a neo-Nazi.

Putin’s war in Ukraine has also led Moscow to deepen ties with Iran. Iran has provided Moscow with hundreds of Shahed exploding drone s that the Russian military has used against Ukraine’s energy facilities and other key infrastructure. Iran also has reportedly shared its drone technology with Russia, which built a facility to produce them.

In return, Moscow is expected to offer Iran advanced fighter jets and other modern weapons.

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