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The BBC's Terry Stiastny
"Yasser Arafat's visit to Moscow is expected to last only a few hours"
 real 56k

Thursday, 23 November, 2000, 13:03 GMT
Russia enters Mid-East fray
Israeli soldiers on tank
Russia believes it has a role to play in Middle East
By Middle East analyst Roger Hardy

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is to arrive in Moscow on Friday for talks with President Vladimir Putin.

According to Mr Putin's spokesman, the meeting is at Mr Arafat's request - but both sides hope to gain from the encounter.

Mr Arafat has made no secret of his frustration with the United States and his desire to internationalise Middle East peacemaking.

Since Russia is technically the co-sponsor of the peace process, that makes Moscow a natural ally in his current predicament.

For his part, President Putin sees an opening for Russian diplomacy in the Middle East - especially at a moment of political uncertainty in the US.

Deeply unpopular

Mr Putin was stung by the fact that he was not invited to last month's Middle East summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh.

Now he has a chance to show that Russia matters.

Mr Arafat wants Russian support for his call for an international protection force for the Palestinians.

But that idea still faces serious Israeli reservations.

The signs are that Mr Arafat would like to resume peace talks with the Israelis.

But a return to the old framework of a peace process dominated by the Americans would be deeply unpopular among his people.

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See also:

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