Abbas backs Russian peace confab


Mahmoud Abbas endorsed holding a Middle East peace conference in Russia.

The Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas said during a three-day visit to Russia that he expects the country to host a Middle East peace conference in June.

The conference would build upon similar talks last November hosted by the United States in Annapolis, Md.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov lobbied for the conference during a trip to Syria, Israel and the Palestinian territories last month, but received a tepid response from Israeli authorities.

A recent escalation of violence between Hamas and Israeli forces has made it difficult to broach the topic of a peace conference. A spokesman for the Palestinian mission to Moscow told the Interfax news service that it is unlikely representatives of Hamas would be invited to any conference in Moscow.

Abbas, who arrived Wednesday in Moscow, will meet Friday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Upon his arrival he met with former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, an expert in Middle East politics.

On Thursday, Abbas spoke at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, where he was presented with an honorary degree, and met later in the day with Russian muftis.


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