Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is meeting his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi in a Russian effort to revive peace talks with Israel but possibly also to repair the breach within Palestinian leadership.

Abbas was scheduled to brief his Russian counterpart on the latest developments related to Palestinian issues, discuss common positions between the two sides and strengthen bilateral relations.

Putin hosted the Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Sochi last month. Abbas and Putin last met in January 2020 in Bethlehem.

“We are confident that Russia will support our efforts,” Abbas told the Russian news agency Sputnik.

But Russia may also be intent on solving more than just Israeli-Palestinian relations. Dmitri Diliani, a former Fatah leader who is close to estranged Fatah member Mohammed Dahlan, said that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has been mediating to end the rift in the Fatah party.

Dahlan, a former Fatah member expelled from the party after a falling out with Abbas, met Lavrov in Moscow recently. Diliani said that the meeting was not the first time the two have met to discuss reconciliation within the Fatah movement and a wider Palestinian reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

Dahlan has lived in the United Arab Emirates since his falling out with Abbas.

However, leaders within the Fatah movement denied Russian involvement for internal reconciliation within the movement. Rather, an official said the purpose of Abbas’ visit was to strengthen ties but also to propose reviving the Quartet – the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia – with Russia taking the lead in the Middle East peace negotiations.

Negotiations broke down during the tenure of former President Donald Trump who was viewed as hostile by Palestinians after making several moves that were seen as pro-Israel.

A Palestinian official in Ramallah said that the new U.S. administration “appears to be weak and not interested in playing a significant and influential role in the region.” 

“That’s why the Palestinian leadership has decided to push President Abbas’s initiative to encourage the Quartet members to replace the U.S. as the main sponsors of the peace process. President Putin is a friend of the Palestinian people, and is committed to the two-state solution.”

“We want the participation of several international parties in the peace process,” the official added. “The experience of the past has shown that the U.S. can’t oversee the peace process alone, mainly because of its bias in favor of Israel.”

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