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Russia Mulls EU Peacekeeping Proposal for Palestinian Territories

Russia says it is prepared to consider a proposal by a group of European Union foreign ministers to send peacekeepers to the Palestinian territories. The Moscow response comes as Russian citizens evacuated from recent violence in Gaza returned home. VOA correspondent Peter Fedynsky has this report from the Russian capital.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mikhail Kamynin told Ekho Moskvy Radio in Moscow that his country is prepared to consider a European Union proposal to send peacekeepers into the Palestinian territories. But Kamynin added that it would be impossible to develop the proposal without the approval of the Israeli and Palestinian sides.

Russia, along with the United Nations, the European Union and the United States, is a member of the Quartet on the Middle East, whose goal is to mediate the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The proposal for peacekeepers was made by 10 foreign ministers from the EU's Mediterranean countries during a meeting in Slovenia last week. They published it in the French newspaper Le Monde as an open letter to new Middle East envoy Tony Blair. The peacekeeping proposal was initially advanced by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

Speaking at a Moscow news conference, retired Russian General Leonid Ivashov, former information director for the Russian Army General Staff, said the population density in the Palestinian territories makes it unlikely that Israel can maintain peace in Gaza through military force.

Ivashov, now a military analyst, says Israeli actions in Gaza will mostly likely consist of police and special forces operations. He says army units would only be used for support, to make precision strikes or in blocking actions.

Meanwhile, 22 Russian, Ukrainian, and Kazakh citizens evacuated from Gaza this week arrived in Moscow Tuesday sharing impressions of the fighting between Hamas and Fatah factions. Sarah, an 18-year-old Russian student, returned home with a deep sense of relief.

Sarah says it was "very frightening. Everybody worried about what would happen, would it be war, or what? It was very frightening, but for us it's over."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in the Palestinian territories in late June. He met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his trip and underscored the need for agreement among Palestinians themselves.