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Palestinians dismiss as 'smears' allegations from Israeli academic President Mahmoud Abbas was former KGB agent

Researcher claims there is evidence that Mr Abbas joined the spy agency buried in Soviet-era documents held at the University of Cambridge

Caroline Mortimer
Friday 09 September 2016 17:12 BST
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denies ever working for the Russian secret service
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denies ever working for the Russian secret service (Getty Images)

Palestinian officials have dismissed as "smears" allegations from an Israeli researcher that Mahmoud Abbas was once a KGB spy.

Gideon Remez, a researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Truman Institute, claimed he had found a connection between Palestinian Authority President Abbas and the defunct Soviet-era agency in documents smuggled out of the country by former KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin in 1991.

Mr Remez said the material, now held at the Churchill Archive at the University of Cambridge, was released for public research two years ago and he had requested a file marked "the Middle East".

He said: "There's a group of summaries or excerpts there that all come under a headline of persons cultivated by the KGB in the year 1983.

"Now one of these items is all of two lines ... it starts with the codename of the person, 'Krotov', which is derived from the Russian word for 'mole', and then 'Abbas, Mahmoud, born 1935 in Palestine, member of the central committee of Fatah and the PLO, in Damascus 'agent of the KGB'."

But the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), which Mr Abbas chairs, has dismissed the allegations, which first emerged on Israel’s Channel One TV station on Wednesday, saying it was a “smear campaign” designed to derailed efforts to revive peace talks which collapsed in 2014.

It comes after Russia President Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB agent, offered to host a meeting in Moscow between Mr Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a bid to resume the talks.

Both leaders agreed to the meeting in principle but have yet to set a date.

Mr Abbas, who received a PhD in Moscow in 1982, is a founding member of Fatah, the dominant faction within the PLO, and has been President of the Palestinian territories since 2005.

The documents cited by Mr Remez do not give any indication of what Mr Abbas may have done for the USSR during his purported time on its payroll.

A Palestinian official, who declined to be identified as he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said that Mr Abbas had served as an "official liaison with the Soviets, so he hardly needed to be a spy", without elaborating.

The official said any suggestion that the president was a spy was "absolutely absurd".

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