JERUSALEM (Apr. 1)
Russia’s foreign minister has reportedly refused to invite his Israeli counterpart for a meeting in Moscow. Israeli Foreign Minister Ehud Barak submitted a request two months ago for a meeting with Yevgeny Primakov, who never answered the request, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported Monday.
But Primakov invited Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to meet with him in April in the Russian capital.
That move was interpreted by the Israeli Embassy in Moscow as Russia’s way of protesting the continuing closure Israel imposed on the West Bank and Gaza Strip after a recent series of Hamas terror bombings in Israel.
Primakov said last week that he had no plans to meet with Barak, adding that he would make do with the conversation they had during the March 13 anti-terror summit in the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheik.
The discussion Primakov referred to was a 10-minute hallway conversation with Barak that included Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Ha’aretz reported.
Primakov, the former head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, was appointed foreign minister in January. His appointment signaled a harder foreign policy line than his predecessor, Andrei Kozyrev, embraced.
Diplomatic sources in Moscow were quoted in the Ha’aretz report as describing the Russian foreign minister’s refusal to meet with Barak, and the insulting way in which the request was handled, as unprecedented and undiplomatic.
The sources said Primakov’s behavior toward Barak was intended to underline Moscow’s disapproval of Israeli policy.
Russian officials were quoted as voicing the sentiment that Israel is dwarfing Moscow’s role in the Middle East peace process.
Russia, a co-sponsor with the United States of the peace process, has played a dwindling role in the Middle East as it copes with its internal problems in the wake of the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.