Russia touts role in prisoner swap

The Russian Foreign Ministry is touting its role in this week’s Israel-Hezbollah prisoner swap.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said Russia helped work back channels with the Lebanese government, Hezbollah and the Israeli government to facilitate an exchange of prisoners for the bodies of the two captive Israeli soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.

“Of course, not all of these contacts were publicized,” Nesterenko said in a statement published on the ministry’s Web site Thursday. “In Moscow, we are satisfied that Russia has genuinely helped to find a mutually acceptable solution to these complex problems.”

Russia has sought to establish itself as an honest broker between Israel and its Arab neighbors, relying on Soviet-era ties to Arab countries and a large population of ethnic Russians in Israel to establish credibility with both sides.

The statement said the trade reflects a reduction of tension in the region, a goal that Moscow also has pressed with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in efforts to jump-start talks this summer in Moscow, which were never realized. The talks faltered on whether Syria – another country to which Moscow has close diplomatic ties but is generally shunned by the West – would take part in the discussion.

“All these months, Russia has energetically established contact with the government of Israel, Hezbollah and influential regional parties to make this exchange possible,” Nesterenko said.

Russia’s position is that constructive dialogue, not violent confrontation, will yield results for the peoples of the Middle East, the statement said.

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