Intra-Palestinian Meeting in Moscow Seeks to Establish Interim Government

Hamas, al-Fatah, and a dozen other Palestinian factions are participating in three days of Russian-sponsored talks

Serghej Lavrov apre la riunione intrapalestinese

Representatives of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, al-Fatah (the historic Palestinian movement, to which President Abu Mazen belongs), and 11 other Palestinian factions gathered in Moscow on February 29 for an unprecedented intra-Palestinian meeting under Russian auspices. The meeting will last until March 2, and, as Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to the Middle East and Africa Mikhail Bogdanov told reporters, “its purpose is to help the various Palestinian forces unite politically.”

The Kremlin has managed to bring to the Russian capital virtually all the main representatives of Palestine, all the political forces present in various countries of the region, including Syria and Lebanon. According to some rumors leaking from Russian diplomatic circles, the goal of the extraordinary meeting “seems to be the establishment of a Palestinian technical government, which, however, should not formally include members of Hamas (considered a terrorist organization) to allow Western countries to recognize it as a partner.” The meeting in the Russian capital comes a day after the resignation, accepted by President Abu Mazen, of the government of Mohammed Shtayyeh in favor of a unified Palestinian technical government after the end of the conflict, including Gaza.

Lavrov: “We cannot respond by collectively punishing the Palestinians”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke at the opening of the meeting. The Russian diplomatic chief emphasized that “the absolute priority, of course, is to stop the bloodshed, which Russia has been condemning since the first days after the attack [of Hamas on Israel] on October 7, 2023,” but “the response to this should not be collective punishment of the Palestinians.”

As the Arab News agency wrote on the eve of the meeting, Russia “presents itself as a true defender of the Palestinian cause.” Moreover, inviting these groups, some of which the West considers terrorist groups, to Moscow will allow the Kremlin to send a strong message of solidarity not only to the Arab-Islamic world, but to all countries in the global South. Arab News reports that the meeting “comes at a time when Washington’s support for Israel further undermines US soft power policies.”

Riyad al-Malki

For many Russian and international analysts, finding compromises between Palestinian factions will prove to be a truly difficult task. Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, currently in Geneva, Switzerland, said he does not expect “miracles” from the talks in Moscow “on a unified government” and the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip in the post-war period. “We hope,” al-Malki said, “that good results can be achieved in terms of mutual understanding between all factions on the need to support the technocratic government that will emerge. I hope that the meeting in Moscow can soon be followed by other meetings of political forces in the region.”

There is a profound difference in approach between Hamas and al-Fatah, and it will not be easy for them to reach a compromise. Russia continues to insist that Gaza “needs a government to rebuild” and invited the representatives gathered in the Russian capital to come to an agreement “for the good of the tormented Palestinian people.”

In this highly sensitive situation, even a small progress in the dialog between the two main Palestinian movements, Hamas and al-Fatah, “would become a significant diplomatic success for Moscow.”