Israel protests Russian meeting with Islamic Jihad leader

Israel condemns Russia for hosting Islamic Jihad leader in Moscow
2 min read
12 March, 2020
Russia's foreign minister met with senior Islamic Jihad officials on Wednesday in Moscow, including the group's leader.
Russian FM Sergei Lavrov met with Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhala. [Getty]

Israel lodged an official protest on Thursday after Russia's foreign minister held talks in Moscow with senior Islamic Jihad (PIJ) officials, including the group's leader.

The Russian embassy tweeted photos of the meeting on Wednesday, including an image with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Islamic Jihad leader Ziad Al-Nakhala shaking hands. The photo was deleted shortly afterwards.

The Russian foreign ministry said that the two sides focused on Middle East peace efforts and the current situation in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

They also discussed restoring Palestinian national unity under the platform of the PLO "as a necessary condition for establishing sustainable direct negotiations with Israel", the Russian foreign ministry's website said.

Russia also reiterated its commitment to a two-state solution.

Israel registered an official protest on Thursday following the meeting, with the interim Israeli ambassador in Russia calling PIJ a "terrorist organisation supported by Iran that does not recognise Israel's right to exist".

Read more: Why is Israel waging war on Islamic Jihad?

Al-Nakhala, 66, was elected secretary-general of PIJ in 2018 and is based between Syria and Lebanon. Iran supplies the group with training, expertise and money.

Earlier in March, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh also met with Russia's foreign minister.

"The head of the movement expressed our people's thanks for Russia's positions that support Palestinian rights in the different regional and international forums," Hamas' website reported at the time.

Moscow has in the past hosted representatives from Palestinian factions in a bid to discuss political reconciliation.

Palestinian politics has been effectively frozen since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah in a 2007 near-civil war, a year after winning parliamentary elections.

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