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Mideast quartet backs Moscow peace conference

RIA Novosti

20:5826/06/2009 TRIESTE, June 26 (RIA Novosti) -- The quartet of Middle East peace negotiators on Friday confirmed its support for a Moscow peace conference later this year.

At a meeting in Italy, the quartet, which includes the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia, also urged Israel on Friday to halt the construction of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories and open border crossings.

"We would like to achieve the full-scale resumption of the peace process in all areas and with the participation of all parties concerned, but the Palestinian-Israeli direction remains a priority," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

U.S. envoy George Mitchell said that the United States hoped Israelis and Palestinians would soon begin "meaningful and productive" peace negotiations.

"We believe we are making progress in these efforts and we hope very much to conclude this phase of the discussions and to be able to move into meaningful and productive negotiations in the near future," he said.

The Russian president said on Tuesday all parties, including the new Israeli government, had agreed to attend the Middle East peace conference due to be held in Moscow by the end of 2009.

Russia has been seeking to host the Middle East peace talks for more than a year, but despite repeated statements of support from the Quartet nothing has developed.

Talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority launched after a peace conference hosted by then U.S. President George Bush in November 2007 made little progress and were comprehensively ended by an Israeli offensive on Gaza in December that left 1,300 Palestinians dead and 5,000 injured.

The Hamas and Fatah movements, the largest political organizations in Palestine, split in June 2007 when Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip and pushed the Fatah movement out of the enclave of 1.5 million. Hamas has since remained in power in Gaza, independent of the officially recognized government of Fatah in the West Bank, which is headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.


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