Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is on a visit to Moscow.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas began his visit to Moscow. Negotiations with the Russian leadership resulted in the commitment to deliver a large consignment of light weapons, helicopters, and armored personnel carriers without weapons to the Palestinian Autonomy. Moreover, a surprise was waiting for Abbas in the Russian capital. What information is available to Kommersant indicates that Russia hopes to convene a Middle East peace conference in Moscow this July. In fact, the Kremlin intends to boost the status of the forum by organizing it simultaneously with US President Barack Obama’s visit to Moscow. His participation will certainly turn the trick.

It was on the eve of his visit that Abbas forwarded to the Russian leadership a request for light weapons. The matter concerns 5,000 submachine guns, 1,000 handguns, and 300 machine guns with ordnance for Palestinian secret services. Israel already gave its consent for the deal and promised to let the weapons pass. The consignment will also include 50 armored personnel carriers, the ones Moscow promised Ramallah several years ago. The deal had been initially thwarted by Israel whose resistance was finally overcome by a compromise. The Palestinians will get the armored personnel carriers but without weapons.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and President Dmitry Medvedev with whom the visitor met reassured Abbas that everything the Palestinians had requested would be provided. Plus two helicopters for the autonomy’s senior officials.

On the other hand, it was the previous government of Israel that okayed the Russian-Palestinian arms deal and not Benjamin Netanyahu’s incumbent Cabinet. This Cabinet is noticeably more rightist than its predecessor was. Actually, experts are of the opinion that practically any effort at Israeli-Palestinian cooperation at this point is doomed to failure. Choosing to dismiss these warnings, Russia retains the hope to convene the Israeli-Palestinian settlement conference in Moscow all the same.

As matters stand, the Arab world alone supports this idea. Israel, the United States, and other Western intermediaries think little of it and of Moscow’s efforts in general. This January, Russia did succeed in having the would-be Moscow conference mentioned in one of the UN Security Council resolutions. Last week, the Kremlin pulled off something wholly unexpected, something that might up the status and importance of the forthcoming forum.

Sources say that when Medvedev was meeting with his US counterpart Obama in London a short while ago, he asked him to combine his first visit to Moscow in early July with participation in the Middle East conference in the Russian capital. Washington is thinking about it for the time being. Obama’s consent to attend the conference will definitely boost its status and importance. Not even Netanyahu will be able to ignore the forum attended by the US president.

The impression is that Abbas found the idea to his liking.