Mahmoud Abbas says reports he worked for KGB are a ‘smear’

Spokesman dismisses Israeli TV claim as Abbas-Netanyahu summit agreed in Moscow

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas:  two Israeli scholars claim to have discovered that Mr Abbas was code-named “Krotov” or “Mole” and worked as a KGB agent in Syria in 1983. Photograph: Issam Rimawi/Reuters

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas: two Israeli scholars claim to have discovered that Mr Abbas was code-named “Krotov” or “Mole” and worked as a KGB agent in Syria in 1983. Photograph: Issam Rimawi/Reuters

 

Palestinians have dismissed as an Israeli “smear” an Israeli television report that President Mahmoud Abbas worked as a KGB agent when he lived in the Syrian capital Damascus in 1983.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Mr Abbas, called the report a smear campaign and said it “falls under the framework of Israeli absurdities which we have gotten used to”.

“It is clear Israel is troubled by the [Palestinians’] strategic relationship with Russia and by the clear and announced Russian position, which is to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis on an independent Palestinian state and the right of self-determination,” Abu Rudeineh said.

The report came just a few hours before the foreign ministry in Moscow announced that both Mr Abbas and Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu had agreed in principle to attend a summit meeting in Moscow, the culmination of weeks of effort by Russian Middle East envoy Mikhail Bogdanov, who served in Syria when Mr Abbas was allegedly a spy there.

Mr Netanyahu had already agreed to bilateral talks “without preconditions” but Mr Abbas insisted on a halt to West Bank settlement construction and the release of prisoners. The last round of direct negotiations took place in 2014 but broke down over a string of disagreements.

The Israel television Channel 1 report cited Soviet- era documents held in the Churchill Archives centre at Cambridge university, smuggled out of Russia by a disillusioned former KGB archivist, Vasili Mitrokhin, who defected to Britain following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Mr Mitrokhin died in 2004 at the age of 81, but the files were only made available for public research in 2014.

Two Israeli scholars, who requested the documents, claim to have discovered that Mr Abbas was code-named “Krotov” or “Mole” and worked under Mr Bogdanov in Syria in 1983.

However, there were no more details and it was unclear how long Mr Abbas supposedly worked for the KGB.

Some Palestinian officials speculated that the report was an attempt to undermine Mr Abbas and his Fatah party ahead of the upcoming local elections in the West Bank and Gaza.

Hours after the report was aired the Palestinian high court decided to postpone the elections, scheduled for October 8th, until at least December.

The ruling followed a number of appeals related to candidate lists and the fact that east Jerusalem Palestinians wouldn’t be allowed to vote, but there had been rumours that that the Palestinian Authority had been looking for an excuse to cancel the election, fearing that Hamas, which already controls Gaza, would defeat Fatah in the West Bank.

Hamas accused Mr Abbas of ordering the postponement in a move that undermines Palestinian democracy.