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Mideast quartet likely to meet Dec. 17 in Paris - Russian FM

RIA Novosti

14/12/2007 17:32

MOSCOW, December 14 (RIA Novosti) - The next meeting of the Middle East quartet of mediators could go ahead December 17 in Paris on the sidelines of a high-level donor meeting, Russia's foreign minister said Friday.

The French capital will host a meeting of donor countries on December 17 to discuss international support for economic and social projects in the Palestinian territory.

"We hope to supplement the upcoming Paris forum with meetings of the Middle East quartet and the contact group of the Arab League," Sergei Lavrov said.

Earlier this week the Russian Foreign Ministry said representatives of the quartet - the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Russia - could meet on the sidelines of the Paris forum with members of the Arab League to discuss the Arab Peace Initiative.

The initiative offers Israel peace agreements and normalization in relations with Arab countries in exchange for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from all the occupied territories, including the Golan Heights.

The initiative also envisages the recognition of "an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital" in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as a "just solution" for the Palestinian refugees.

Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported on Tuesday that quartet ministers could also discuss Russia's proposal to host in April 2008 another Middle East peace meeting at the ministerial level as a follow up to the U.S.-sponsored Mideast peace forum held last month in Annapolis, Maryland.

At the Annapolis conference, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to resume negotiations towards creating a Palestinian state that have been stalled for seven years.

In contrast to the meeting in Annapolis, Russia wants to expand the scope of discussions at the Moscow conference to include the resumption of negotiations between Israel and Syria, and the launching of Israeli-Lebanese talks.

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