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Russians, Palestinians Discuss Middle East Crisis - 2001-09-07

A senior Palestinian negotiator is in Moscow Friday for talks about the Middle East crisis. The visit follows talks between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow earlier in the week.

PLO executive committee secretary Mahmud Abbas held talks Friday with Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov.

After the talks, Mr. Abbas told reporters he was in Moscow to explore ways to restart the stalled Middle East peace process. He also said he received a briefing on what Russia had discussed with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon during his three days of talks in Moscow. Prime Minister Sharon left Moscow the day before Mr. Abbas arrived.

The Palestinian envoy said Russian officials assured him that their talks with Mr. Sharon in no way lessened Moscow's support for the full return of what it calls the "occupied Arab territories."

In his comments to reporters, Foreign Minister Ivanov confirmed Russia' s support for an independent Palestinian state. "We have a firm position that the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people should be realized," Mr. Ivanov said, "including their right to self-determination and the establishment of their own state."

The discussions also covered the role that Russia could play in Middle East negotiations, along with Europe and the United States.

Officially, Russia is a co-sponsor of the Middle East peace process, along with the United States, but Moscow's role in the region has diminished following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Now Russian President Vladimir Putin is signaling that this may change. This week he pledged to redouble Moscow's peace making efforts, taking advantage of Russia's traditionally strong ties with Arab world and its burgeoning relationship with Israel.