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Transcript: Russia PNA Leaders Talks, Ramallah

Transcript of Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov Remarks and Answers to Questions at Press Conference Following Talks with PNA Leaders, Ramallah, July 13, 2003

First of all I would like to express my deep gratitude to the Palestinian leadership for the invitation and for the very thorough and frank talks on the full range of questions pertaining to Middle East settlement, as well as on the prospects for Russian-Palestinian relations.

All the representatives of the Palestinian leadership with whom I met: President Yasser Arafat, Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of the Legislative Council Ahmed Qrei, PNA Minister of Foreign Affairs Nabil Shaath and other key cabinet ministers expressed their deep gratitude to Russia for its active and consistent line in support of the lawful rights of the Palestinian people and in favor of a just political settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Russia has made a substantial contribution to the drafting of the Road Map - a plan for settlement that opens the real way out of the crisis.

The Palestinians stressed that now that positive trends are evident in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the role of Russia, along with the United States, European Union and United Nations, is indispensable for achieving further progress in the matter of strict implementation by the parties of all the provisions of the Road Map.

Russia has long-standing good relations with the Palestinian people. Time-tested relations. Our relations with Israel are on the upgrade; they are characterized by mutual respect, growing trust and the development of ties in the most diverse fields. All this opens up before Russia additional opportunities for assisting Israeli-Palestinian settlement. And we shall consistently be building up our efforts in this direction.

Russia welcomes the agreements reached between the Palestinian National Authority and Israel on the withdrawal of Israeli troops from a number of areas of the Gaza Strip and from Bethlehem, where from now on security has to be ensured by PNA authorities.

These agreements became possible largely thanks to the bold and courageous position of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who has been decisively coming out for the cessation of violence and the implementation of all the provisions of the Road Map. Russia fully supports this course of the Prime Minister and regards it as the only right one in the current situation.

It is of fundamental importance that both parties in conflict should refrain from violent actions that could provoke a new exacerbation of the situation, and that they continue reciprocal steps as envisaged by the Road Map. Particularly significant in this context are the contacts between Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, which should be continued.

Top priority steps at this stage are: the pullback of Israeli troops to the positions of September 28, 2000, a complete lifting of the blockade of Palestinian cities, the restructuring of Palestinian security services and enhancement of their effectiveness in countering terrorist activity, the freeze of settlement activities, preparations for and the holding of Palestinian elections, and the adoption of a constitution.

This chance should not be lost. It is necessary to conclusively do away with violence and terror and make the peace process irreversible, which will open up the prospect of creating a sovereign, viable Palestinian state coexisting in peace and harmony with Israel.

On its own and within the Quartet framework, Russia will be strenuously working towards this objective.

Question: It is known that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is sharply against contacts with Yasser Arafat. Today, Igor Sergeyevich, you met with him. What for and why?

Foreign Minister Ivanov: We treat with respect the opinion of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He has done and continues to do a great deal to develop relations between Israel and Russia. But we likewise treat with respect the opinion of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, the opinion of the Palestinian leadership, who consider such contacts with President Yasser Arafat necessary and also consider it necessary to lift the restrictions on his movement. We have no grounds not to reckon with this opinion and not to take it into account.

Question: What does the Quartet make of the need for the parties to implement the Road Map against the background of continuing arrests and settlement activities by the Israeli side in Palestinian territories?

Foreign Minister Ivanov: The Road Map is the position of the international community. It was prepared by the Quartet, but backed up by the whole international community. The Road Map was accepted by the Israeli and Palestinian parties. All of its provisions must be implemented. In this regard it is crucial that a direct dialogue is being maintained between the Prime Ministers of Israel and the PNA. Eleven working groups have been set up to deal with specific questions of the Road Map's implementation.

As far as the international community is concerned, we shall continue to render vigorous assistance to ensuring that all the provisions of the Road Map are implemented in full.

Question: Why is Israel absent from the program of your Middle East tour?

Foreign Minister Ivanov: As I have already said, our relations with Israel are actively developing, they're on the upgrade. We are maintaining a continual dialogue. President Vladimir Putin's telephone conversations with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon have become regular in character. Recently I met several times with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel, including in Moscow. By agreement with the Israeli side, I plan to make a visit to Israel this fall.

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