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Russia's In Middle East to Discuss Int Forces

Ivanov in Middle East to Discuss Deployment of International Forces

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is expected in Ramallah, coming from Jordan, the first leg of a five-day visit to the Middle East aiming to step up Russia’s role in the peace process and to discuss the idea of international forces deployment to monitor the implementation of the “roadmap”.

A spokesperson of the Russian foreign ministry said Ivanov plans to highlight security issues in his talks with regional leaders, noting that Moscow was prepared to take part in joint monitoring operations with US forces between Palestinians and Israelis.

Russia hails US efforts to stabilize the situation by setting up monitoring teams in the Middle East and “we for our part are ready to join them,” spokesman Alexander Yakovenko told the RIA Novosti news agency.

The “extreme acuity” of the situation in the Middle East “and the lack of trust between the parties in conflict” means that reconciliation will be difficult to achieve, so that the external monitoring teams will play “a key stabilizing role in the movement toward peace,” he said.

Ivanov, who is currently in Italy after visiting Belgium, has visits scheduled in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and the occupied Palestinian territory, but not Israel.

His talks with Arab leaders will cover a wide range of security issues concerning completion of the first stage of the US proposed “roadmap” to peace, Yakovenko said.

These include the withdrawal of Israeli occupation forces from Palestinian territories to the positions of Sept. 28, 2000, the restructuring of Palestinian security forces, a freezing of the Israeli settlement activities, and preparations for the holding of Palestinian elections, he said.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman Wednesday said Ivanov had requested a meeting with the Palestinian leadership.

The “roadmap” brokered by the “Quartet” of the United Nations, United States, Russia and the European Union calls for the graduated creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.

A Russian diplomat said Wednesday that Ivanov was not visiting Israel because Israeli leaders have other commitments at the time of the visit, but would probably visit in the autumn.

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