Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned that the conflict in Gaza could lead to a regional crisis, saying efforts to shift blame onto Iran would only add fuel to the fire, according to Russian news agency Interfax.
The top Russian diplomat’s comments on Thursday came days after President Vladimir Putin said he did not believe the key players wanted the war between Israel and Hamas to escalate.
This week Russia proposed amendments to a draft UN resolution that would have called for an “immediate full” ceasefire and an end to attacks on civilians, but it was rejected by the Security Council. The final draft, which only provided for humanitarian pauses, was rejected by the United States, while Russia abstained.
Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia said the draft “does not contain a clear call for a ceasefire” and “will not help stop the bloodshed.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (r) and Russian President Vladimir Putin cut the ribbon to unveil the memorial candle monument in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020 [Amit Shabi/Pool via AFP]
Russia has so far taken a cautious approach to the latest escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which erupted on October 7 when Hamas militants launched an unprecedented attack inside Israel that killed around 1,400 people. Since the attack, about 3,500 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip.
Moscow issued a belated statement reaffirming Israel’s right to defend itself after the Hamas attack, which also killed at least 16 Russian citizens, but criticized Israel for responding with “cruel methods.”
“In my opinion, this is unacceptable,” Putin said of the Israeli airstrike in Gaza. “More than 2 million people live there [in Gaza]. By the way, not everyone supports Hamas, not everyone. But they all have to suffer, including women and children.”
Russia, which supports an independent Palestinian state with occupied East Jerusalem as its capital, has not labeled Hamas a “terrorist” group like many Western states.
Meanwhile, despite important foreign policy conflicts between the two states, including the war in Syria, Putin has maintained close relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the years.
“Failed US policy”
In his first public statement on the crisis on October 10, the Russian president suggested that the United States was playing a “destructive” role and said the conflict was a “clear example” of Washington’s failed policies.
“[They] tried to monopolize regulation [the conflict]”Unfortunately, he was not interested in finding compromises acceptable to both sides,” Putin said, according to the Moscow Times.
Lavrov also said Thursday that attempts to blame Iran for the war were “provocations,” likely in reference to the United States.
While the US did not directly blame Iran for involvement in the Hamas attack, it said Tehran was “largely complicit” due to its long-standing support for the Palestinian group. US President Biden has also warned Iran to be “cautious” not to escalate the conflict.
Iran celebrated Hamas’ attack but insisted it was not involved.
As Russia wages its own war with neighboring Ukraine, for which it has been widely condemned in the West, analysts may also see the Israel-Gaza conflict as a welcome distraction.
“This conflict is a blessing for Russia because it hugely diverts the attention of the United States and the West,” Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, told AFP.
On Thursday, Russia said it had sent 27 tons of humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza to be transported via Egypt following an explosion at a hospital on Tuesday that killed hundreds of people. Putin called the “hospital strike” a “disaster” and urged urgent negotiations.
Source : www.aljazeera.com