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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russia working tirelessly for truce in Gaza - Foreign Ministry

RIA Novosti

07/01/2009 17:31 MOSCOW, January 7 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will continue its efforts in the UN Security Council and across the Middle East to bring about a settlement to the conflict in the Gaza Strip, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

"Russia will not for a minute stop its efforts in the Security Council of the United Nations and directly in the region to stop the escalation of military conflict and to reach a humanitarian, and then long-term ceasefire," Andrei Nesterenko said.

The UN Security Council was due to continue later on Wednesday discussions on the situation in Gaza, where Israeli forces continue the ground offensive they started on Saturday.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovlev said the Security Council could reach a common position, issuing either a resolution or presidential statement after the talks.

Nesterenko said that the Russian president's special representative in the region, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov, had held discussions with the authorities in Israel and Syria, and with the leadership of the Palestinian National Authority and the radical Islamic group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

"The bloodshed needs to be stopped urgently, to prevent a humanitarian disaster, to evacuate wounded men, and to enable peaceful inhabitants to simply survive," Nesterenko said, adding that a long-term ceasefire should follow a temporary truce.

He said Russia welcomed the efforts of Egypt to bring about a ceasefire, and viewed the "renewal of inter-Palestinian dialogue as an important condition of a political settlement to the crisis in Gaza."

Despite the Security Council discussions, international efforts are focusing on a ceasefire plan proposed by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

"The Security Council will consider what decision it can adopt after its discussions," Yakovlev said late Tuesday after the day's talks ended. "It could be a presidential statement, or a resolution - all options are open."

"It is very important not to allow a humanitarian crisis to build up in Gaza," the Russian deputy foreign minister added. "It is also important that the Israelis abandon their full-scale operations in Gaza, and that the Palestinians cease rocket bombardments of southern Israel."

Yakovlev also said that Russia had sent several planeloads of emergency supplies to Gaza, the latest of which landed in Egypt late Tuesday carrying 24 tons of tents, electrical generators and other goods.

At least 660 Palestinians have been killed, including 215 children and 89 women, and more than 3,000 injured as a result of Israeli airstrikes and ground operations.

Israel's bombing campaign destroyed more than 750 facilities in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, which according to Israel were connected to terrorist activities. Tel Aviv said the campaign was an "all-out war" to prevent rocket attacks on Israeli border towns from Gaza.

Palestinian militants have launched some 500 rockets on Israel in response to the aerial bombing.

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