Russia draws closer to Arab countries
Prospects for rapprochement between Russia and the Arab countries, the activities of Muslim international organizations, and possible areas for cooperation are becoming a topical issue for Moscow. According to scientific director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vitaly Naumkin, the Islamic world is now open to dialogue like never before.
"Until now, cooperation with international Islamic organizations has taken place within the framework of Russia's work as an observer country in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation - it was the main format of Russia's interaction with the international Islamic community. But the situation has recently started to change - the cooperation with the World Islamic League, based in Saudi Arabia and the World Union of Islamic Communities based in the UAE has started to improve recently," Naumkin said.
According to him, these organizations have begun not only to positively assess Russia's role, but talk a lot about it as well: "We can cite as an example Muslim World League Secretary-General Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa's visit to Russia. He visited Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, where he said that Russia serves as an example for multinational countries, one must learn from it how to maintain peace and stability in a multi-confessional society, as well as praised ties with the Russian Federation, which has valuable experience in the peaceful coexistence of many religions."
"Today there has been a serious reappraisal of our country and its role in the Middle East, compared to the beginning of the 2000s, where we became one of the leading players and powers that is respected. We have become a partner for a great number of states, made many friends, proving to be reliable and loyal partners interested in peace and stability. The region has realized that Islamic extremism and terrorism threaten all of us, and first of all those Muslim countries that are located in the Middle East," Naumkin said.
Meanwhile, he was skeptical about the 'deal of the century' conference held recently in Bahrain, proposed for Israel and Palestine by the Trump administration and providing for a peace plan in the Middle East. "This project simply does not exist, because all its elements have long been splashed out - recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, transferring the U.S. embassy there, and Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights. This is a plan defined by the Trump administration along with the Netanyahu government to marginalize Palestinian problems, and an attempt to replace the solution with some economic promises. The main economic element of the U.S. plan was regarded by the Palestinians as a bribe. The Americans thought when they offer Palestinians huge investment - $50 billion over 10 years, one million jobs, then everyone will be happy and satisfied, forget about their own state, but it did not happen - Palestinians rejected this plan."
Explaining the fact that Russia did not participate in this conference, Naumkin said that it "firmly stands on the principles of the Security Council resolution": "The problem can be solved only on the basis of a two-state principle. But since nobody talks about it there - neither the Americans, neither their partners - it is doomed to failure, and it did. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains a very serious problem. Russia maintains a principled stand on this conflict and all others, particularly in Syria."
The day after the "deal of the century" conference, Russian National Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton and head of the Israeli National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat held trilateral talks on Syria in Jerusalem. Commenting on this meeting, Naumkin said: "There is much to discuss here, but it does not mean that our positions are identical. Even if we look at Patrushev’s statements, which deal with one of the most painful problems linked to the role of Iran and the attitude to Iran's problems, it is evident that we and the U.S. remain far apart on most issues, as well as with Israel, despite our good interstate relations with this country."