Russia warns of 'absolutely unacceptable' civilian casualties in case of Israeli ground operation in Gaza
President Putin blames US for current escalation between Israel and Palestine, says Washington tried to solve political problem with economic means
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday warned that civilian casualties will be "absolutely unacceptable" in case of an Israeli ground operation in the Gaza Strip.
Speaking at a meeting of the heads of the Commonwealth of Independents States (CIS) in Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek, Putin said that employing heavy military equipment in residential areas carries significant risks for all parties involved, yet conducting the operation without it poses its own set of challenges.
The Russian leader blamed the US for the current escalation in the Palestine-Israel conflict, saying Washington tried to solve the political problem, namely the creation of a Palestinian State, with the help of certain measures of economic stimulation.
"The current escalation is a direct result of the failed US policy in the Middle East ... The United States tried to monopolize the Middle East settlement, but was not concerned about finding compromises, and did not take into account the fundamental interests of the Palestinian people," Putin stressed.
He said that Washington blocked the work of the Middle East Quartet – the group that Russia, the EU, UN, and US formed to address the issues of the Palestine-Israel conflict.
"All this gradually led to today's aggravation. We will talk about this in an informal meeting," he said.
Putin also reiterated Russia's readiness to act as a mediator in the Palestine-Israel settlement.
In a dramatic escalation of Middle East tensions, Israeli forces launched a sustained and forceful military campaign against the Gaza Strip, a response to a military offensive by the Palestinian group Hamas in Israeli territories.
The conflict began last Saturday when Hamas initiated Operation Al-Aqsa Flood against Israel, a multi-pronged surprise attack including a barrage of rocket launches and infiltrations into Israel via land, sea, and air.
Hamas said the operation was in retaliation for the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem and Israeli settlers' growing violence against Palestinians.
The Israeli military then launched Operation Swords of Iron against Hamas targets within the Gaza Strip.
Israel's response has extended into cutting water and electricity supplies to Gaza, further worsening the living conditions in an area that has reeled under a crippling siege since 2007.
Armenia, Azerbaijan peace deal on agenda of Karabakh settlement
Turning to the situation in Karabakh, Putin said the preparation of a peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia is on the agenda to "finally put an end to this long-standing conflict."
"Specifically, we are ready to organize negotiations in any format in Moscow, if necessary ... We will help ensure that these negotiations end with the achievement of a peace agreement, which will be signed by the leaders of these countries ... The choice is always up to the respective country. We are ready to create the necessary conditions for this work," he said.
Putin also admitted that Armenia may refuse to hold the CIS sports competition, scheduled for 2024 in its second-largest city of Gyumri due to the recent developments in Karabakh.
Cooperation within CIS
Putin praised the CIS as a "reliable, in-demand and effective format of cooperation," although some countries that are part of the organization – Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, "do not work in it."
Ukraine has signed but never ratified the CIS fundamental documents, "evaded full-scale cooperation" from the very beginning, he said.
Moldova "is losing its identity," which is the choice of the country's authorities, and no one can prevent them, except the people, he added.
"Moldova is practically losing its identity. The elites of this country generally believe that they are not Moldovans. They call themselves Romanians," Putin asserted.
Collaborating within the CIS provides each nation with the chance to bolster their positions and foster cooperation, while respecting each country's unique characteristics, the Russian leader said.
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