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Russia Calls For Urgent Talks to End Middle East Crisis - 2002-03-30


Russia has called for urgent talks by various international officials to try to end the Middle East crisis. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov says immediate steps are necessary to contain the spread of violence in the region.

Foreign Minister Ivanov said envoys from Russia and other countries should meet immediately in Jerusalem to implement a United Nations resolution on the current crisis.

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution early Saturday calling for Israel to withdraw its forces from Palestinian towns, including Ramallah, where Israeli forces have attacked Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters.

Mr. Ivanov said envoys from the United States, Europe, the United Nations and Russia should hold talks with Mr. Arafat, as well as with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Earlier, Mr. Ivanov criticized the Israeli incursion into Ramallah, saying it was only making a bad situation worse.

Russia said that isolating Mr. Arafat is not the way to find a solution to the conflict, and it praised the Palestinian leader's offer to declare an immediate cease-fire.

Russia has long sought to maintain balance in its Middle East policy and is officially a co-sponsor of the peace process along with the United States.

However, in recent years Moscow has taken a back seat to Washington in active diplomacy in the region.

Russian officials say Moscow's Middle East envoy was on his way to Israel after a stop in Damascus for talks with Syrian officials. The envoy, Andrei Vdovin, attended the summit meeting of Arab leaders last week in Beirut.

Russia has praised the peace initiative sponsored by Saudi Arabia that was approved at the summit.

That initiative calls for Israel to withdraw from all occupied territories. In exchange, the Arab world would normalize relations with Israel.

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