Lavrov urges Israel to take part in Moscow conference
Russian foreign minister says his country wants both Israelis and Palestinians to attend follow-up Mideast peace conference to Annapolis gathering. 'We call for an immediate halt to settlement activity,' he adds during press conference in Ramallah
During a press conference in Ramallah, following a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Lavrov said that his country was completing the preparations for the conference, which would be a follow-up meeting to the Annapolis gathering.
The Russian minister noted that his country was holding talks with the international Quartet of nations, Israel and Arab countries in order to hold a successful conference.
He added that his country viewed the success of the peace conference as important and would do anything for its success, as well as aiding the Palestinian side.
"We shall also work to speed up the international community's efforts in order to implement what was agreed upon in Annapolis," he said.
According to Lavrov, during his meetings with Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert he noticed the determination to continue the peace negotiations and to try and reach understandings on the outlines of the peace agreement before the end of 2008.
The minister reiterated Russia's objection to Israel's policy in the settlements. "We call for an immediate halt to settlement activity," he said, telling reporters that his country was "very much worried" about Israeli construction on land the Palestinians claim for a future state.
'Blockade of Gaza unacceptable'
The Palestinian president said that he welcomed the Russian initiative for a follow-up meeting to Annapolis. He added that this conference must be convened as soon as possible.
Abbas said that in order for the diplomatic process to succeed and in order to create the required atmosphere, Israel must reach an overall truce with the Palestinians and stop building in the settlements.
"I asked Minister Lavrov to raise this issue with all the relevant parties," the Palestinian president said, stressing the need for the Quartet to intervene in pushing the diplomatic process forward.
Abbas added that he had presented Lavrov with the internal disagreements among the Palestinians, and stressed that no agreement had been reached so far between the PLO and Hamas delegations meeting in Yemen to discuss a reconciliation initiative.
Lavrov expressed his support for the Palestinian reconciliation in order to advance the peace process, and said it was very important for Israel and the Palestinians to carry out their commitments under the Road Map peace plan, which is the basis for negotiations renewed at an international conference in Annapolis, Maryland, in November.
He also called for an end to the blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, terming the blockade, imposed by Israel and Egypt after Hamas militants seized control of Gaza in June, "unacceptable."
"The siege should stop so the Palestinian people in the Strip could lead normal lives," he said.
The Associated Pres contributed to this report