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Putin Affirms his Role in Peace Process

Moratinos Bids Arafat Farewell, Putin Affirms his Role in Peace Process

President Yasser Arafat awarded a Palestinian decoration to the European Union Middle East envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos on the conclusion of his mission in the Middle East as the Russian President Putin stressed that ignoring Arafat’s role in the peace process would be a “mistake.”

Moratinos on Thursday visited President Arafat at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah to pay him farewell, just days before the envoy leaves the job.

A red carpet was rolled out at the battered HQ and the presidential security guard presented arms as Moratinos arrived, the AFP reported.

No replacement was announced for Moratinos.

The European Union is a member of the Quartet along with the United Nations, Russia and the United States, which put together a “roadmap” plan for peace in the Middle East after almost three years of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The EU leaders meeting in northern Greece on Friday renewed their support to the “roadmap” but condemned terrorism and urged the Islamic resistance Movement “Hamas” to agree a ceasefire in the Middle East or risk measures to cut off its financial support.

“The European Union unequivocally condemns terrorism and will contribute to efforts aimed at cutting off support, including arms and financing, to terrorist groups,” a final declaration said.

“The Union demands that Hamas and other groups declare immediately a ceasefire and halt all terrorist activity,” EU leaders said in a final statement at their summit meeting in a Greek beach resort.

“The council is urgently examining the case for wider action against Hamas fund raising,” they threatened.

The document also urged Israel to “take action to restore trust and abstain from any punitive measures, including extra-judicial killings, and to act in accordance with international law.”

The EU statement, which spoke of a historic opportunity for peace in the Middle East, called on Israel to “reverse the settlement policy and activity and end land confiscations and the construction of the so-called security fence.”

Meanwhile, the Russian President Vladimir Putin said the United States and other nations seeking to negotiate peace in the Middle East “should not ignore” President Arafat.

“We have thought and continue to think that we cannot fail to take into account the role of Yasser Arafat in the Middle East peace process. This is an influential person, and many people in the region rely on him,” Putin said Friday.

“I believe it would be a mistake to ignore this factor,” the Russian leader told a Kremlin press conference.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has adopted a policy of sidelining Arafat and has been launching an international campaign to promote its policy, but only the US Administration has so far heeded the Israeli demand.

The EU leaders, with the exception of Italian Prime Minister, Russia, China, the United Nations and the overwhelming majority of other world powers have rejected the Israeli policy and many of them challenged an Israeli declared boycott of foreign officials who insist on meeting with President Arafat.


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