Newspapers in the Middle East and Russia are showing a keen interest in the visit by President Vladimir Putin to Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
In Israel, a top Hebrew daily makes an upbeat assessment of the visit while an influential English-language daily takes a more cynical view.
The press in the region's Muslim countries examines a number of different angles, including the possibility Mr Putin will be bringing a new peace initiative, with one Syrian paper believing the visit will give a boost to the peace process,
In Russia itself, the economic angle is highlighted, with one daily juxtaposing what it sees as the contradictory nature of the Russian president going to talk peace while seeking to sell military hardware.
Vladimir Putin arrives in Israel tomorrow - the first head of state from Moscow to visit since the establishment of the State of Israel. This is an unusual event, not only because it is happening for the first time, but because of Russia's unique place in the world and Israel's ties with this power. The rich bilateral relations between the two countries go beyond regional matters, and include economic and cultural elements. The fact that more than a million ex-Russians and others from the former Soviet Union live in Israel has a strong influence strengthening the relationship and deepening the closeness between the two countries and two nations in ways not frequently seen in the international community. Putin's visit represents a new peak in the dialogue between the two countries, and an opportunity to continue nurturing that dialogue for the benefit of both sides.
The arrival to Israel of Russian President Vladimir Putin justifies the journalistic cliche that the greatest importance of the visit is that it is taking place. None of his predecessors ever saw fit to visit this country, their religious and/or political stakes in it notwithstanding... Putin's very decision not to overlook this thus-far shunned destination on his journey to the region is in itself very welcome, a sign of hope and the breaking of a traditional Moscow foreign-policy mould... Why is he veering from what had become Kremlin custom? Putin has image problems of sufficient severity to do him and his government real harm... His crackdown on Russia's new economic 'oligarchs' - many of whom are Jewish - has earned him bad press abroad. His dedication to true democracy is questioned and he's even charged with anti-Semitism... A facade of friendly handshakes may help reduce some of the criticism and apprehensions in the West about Russia's renascent superpower ambitions.
Editorial in Jerusalem Post
Given the fact that Russia is an active member of the quadripartite committee for the peace process, which is being hindered by Israeli policies, the benefit of this visit will be considerable and its positive repercussions will be many. The visit will achieve the political and economic aims being sought.
Comment in Syria's Tishrin
Israel has used anti-Semitism as a weapon against Russian President Putin, in order to make him retract his decision to sell weapons to Syria. The expression anti-Semitism is an unfounded allegation through which Jews in the world want to portray themselves as victims because of their religion. They use this as a weapon to blackmail the whole world and achieve their aims, as well as to terrorise those who oppose their greed and uncover their lies.
Saudi Arabia's Al-Watan
Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit stressed the significance of Putin's visit. "The visit acquires special importance as it is the first by a Russian President in about four decades," he explained in a meeting with diplomatic reporters. Abul Gheit pointed out that the visit reflected the common Egyptian-Russian desire to boost bilateral ties.
The Egyptian Gazette
The visit of Putin heralds a complex political plan for the Middle East and the balance of power in the region. Issues such as Iran's nuclear plan and the substantial assistance of Russia in the construction of Bushehr nuclear plant and Israel's serious concern about it, the unprecedented withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and the likelihood of political tranquillity in the Middle East and the Russian backing of these developments, the sale of Russian missiles to Syria and the strong protest of the Sharon government... are all very puzzling.
Vladimir Putin is offering Middle East peace and weapons. The main political task of Vladimir Putin during his visit to the Middle East will be to act as a reminder about Russia as an active participant in the region's peace process. This, by the way, does not hinder Moscow tackling economic tasks - expanding the market for its military hardware.
Today, Russia faces the task of achieving certain economic agreements with Egypt as well as learning about the position of Cairo on untangling the situation in the Middle East. And only after this, will he pay a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Autonomy with a new initiative. I think that this is the reason for the sequence of Putin's tour - Egypt, Israel, Palestine.
Commentator in Russia's Rossiyskaya Gazeta
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