Russian Mideast Conf. 'Certain'

Ad Feedback - JERUSALEM, Israel - Last week's one-day visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was less than congenial, according to an unnamed government source quoted by The Jerusalem Post.

The official described the Russian foreign minister's meetings with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and President Shimon Peres as "nasty," and the meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as slightly more cordial.

Lavrov's mission was to inform Israel that the Russian-sponsored Middle East peace conference will take place in June regardless of how Israel and the United States feel about it.

Accord to the Israeli official, Moscow wants to "make its mark" in the Middle East. Hosting Arab nations, as the U.S. did in its conference in Annapolis last November, is a good way to do it.

"For the Russians, we are just a small pawn in the greater game," one Israeli official said. "They are going to go ahead with the conference no matter what we say, knowing we'll have no choice in the end but to go along," he said.

The same holds true for the nuclear energy pact Russian President Vladimir Putin signed with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak earlier in the week.

Putin aims to return Russia to its former place before the fall of the Soviet Union, and an influential presence in the Middle East is central to his plan.

Source: The Jerusalem Post

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