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Tuesday, 4 September, 2001, 18:24 GMT 19:24 UK
Russia seeks to boost Mid-East role
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Ariel Sharon
Russian-Israeli ties are far removed from Cold War hostility
The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has said his country is prepared to make a "substantial contribution" to a peace settlement in the Middle East.

Mr Putin voiced his concerns about the peace process during talks with the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, in Moscow.

Russia is a co-sponsor of the Middle East peace process launched in 1991, but its role has been overshadowed by the United States.

Vladimir Putin
Mr Putin wants to use existing peace initiatives
On the second day of Mr Sharon's three-day visit, Mr Putin said his government was following events in the Middle East "with concern, especially as a significant number of the citizens there originate from the Soviet Union and Russia".

"We want them to live in conditions of peace and security," he said. "Nothing can justify terrorist acts against civilians."

Mr Putin also indicated that Moscow's traditional links with the Arab world and the Palestinians could help it play a useful mediating role.

Combating 'terrorism'

The Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, said the talks focused on ways of settling the Middle East crisis on the basis of existing initiatives.

A source close to the Israeli delegation said Mr Putin and Mr Ivanov "showed an understanding of the struggle waged by Israel against terrorism".

The official said the Russians had not criticised Israel's "liquidations" of senior Palestinians suspected of involvement in attacks and did not ask for the deployment of international monitors - as demanded by the Palestinians.

Mr Sharon accused Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat of heading a "terrorist coalition" and asked Moscow to put pressure on Mr Arafat to prevent the violence, the source said.

Export controls

Mr Sharon is also anxious to persuade Russia to scale down its military and nuclear exports to Iran.

Mr Ivanov said that Russia would continue to develop relations with Iran and Iraq, but had always maintained strict export controls on technology connected to weapons of mass destruction.

Iran's Defence Minister, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, has postponed a visit to Russia until after Mr Sharon's visit.

See also:

04 Sep 01 | Middle East
Sharon woos 'even-handed' Moscow
25 Nov 00 | Middle East
Putin proposes Mid-East observers
22 Nov 00 | Media reports
Egypt press lauds Israel envoy recall
23 Nov 00 | Middle East
Russia enters Mid-East fray
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