A senior Iranian envoy met with Hamas representatives in Moscow. The meeting came after talks with a number of Russian diplomats who emphasized Moscow’s efforts to expand its influence as a mediator in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, Russian and Iranian media reported on Friday (27/10).
In a meeting with Hamas representative Moussa Abu Marzouk, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, stressed the need for a ceasefire, lifting the blockade of the Gaza Strip and providing humanitarian assistance, according to a statement issued by the Iranian Embassy in Moscow on Friday (27/10) . The statement was conveyed by the Russian state news agency.
Iran’s state news agency, IRNA, said Abu Marzouk told Bagheri Khani that he appreciated Iran’s support for the Palestinian people.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, Deputy Head of the Hamas Political Bureau, October 29 2006. (Photo: AP/Bassem Tellawi)
Prior to the meeting, Abu Marzouk held talks with a number of Russian diplomats on Thursday (26/10). Israel strongly criticized his visit to Moscow. The Russian Foreign Ministry said they discussed the release of hostages in the Gaza Strip and the evacuation of foreign citizens.
The talks highlight Russia’s efforts to act as a mediator following Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel. Even though Moscow is still busy with the war in Ukraine. However, at least 19 Russian citizens were killed in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani listens to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a meeting in Tehran, Iran, June 23, 2022. (Photo: AP/Vahid Salemi)
Russian President Vladimir Putin stated earlier this month that Moscow could act as a mediator because of its friendly relations with Israel and Palestine. Putin added that “no one can suspect us of playing with one side.”
Despite these claims, Russia submitted a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution condemning violence against civilians. However, Russia did not mention Hamas in the resolution so it was rejected by the UN Security Council.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry condemned Russia’s decision to invite Hamas representatives to Moscow as an “act of supporting terrorism,” and called for the delegation to be expelled from Russia.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded to the criticism on Friday (27/10) by saying that Moscow felt the need to maintain good relations with all parties. It was not clear whether representatives from Russia, Iran and Hamas met on Thursday (26/10).
Abu Marzouk told Russian news agency RIA Novosti in remarks published on Friday (27/10) that he and a number of Russian diplomats discussed issues related to the Palestinian issue and “how we can together determine the future of the region and the entire people different people from the future” that the United States is trying to depict.”
He noted that Russia’s invitation to Hamas to visit was “a message to the whole world that Russia considers Hamas not terrorists, but a liberation movement that defends the rights of its people and wages war for justice.”
Smoke billows after Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, seen from southern Israel, Saturday, October 28, 2023. (Photo: AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)
Moscow has been cautious in commenting on the war between Israel and Hamas as they have continued to expand trade and other areas of cooperation and strengthen security ties with Israel over the past few years. However, Hamas’s visit reflects Moscow’s view of its ties with the group and its backer, Iran, as critical to maintaining its influence in the region.
According to the Washington-based think tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, for Moscow, the war in Gaza “is an opportunity to present itself… as a diplomatic partner” in a region they consider “strategically important.”
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia and Israel have gradually increased cooperation in the fields of trade and security. Many Russians moved to Israel after Putin invaded Ukraine. However, Moscow’s invasion tested the relationship. Israel expressed support for Kyiv, but refused to supply weapons, while many Israelis were angered by Putin’s claim that Ukraine’s Jewish President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, was a neo-Nazi.
Putin’s war in Ukraine also caused Moscow to deepen ties with Iran. Iran supplied hundreds of explosive Shahed drones to Moscow. The drones were used by the Russian military to attack Ukrainian energy facilities and other critical infrastructure. Iran has also reportedly shared its drone technology with Russia. Tehran itself has built drone production facilities.
In return, Moscow is expected to offer Iran advanced fighter jets and other modern weapons. (ah/ft)