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Published:December 5th, 2007 11:56 EST
Statement by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at the Middle East Meeting in Annapolis

Statement by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at the Middle East Meeting in Annapolis

By SOP newswire

Honorable Meeting Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, I would like to thank our US partners for the organization of this important event. I do justice to the farsightedness and political courage of the meeting participants from the region, and in the first place – the Palestinians and the Israelis.

I want to stress – President Vladimir Putin immediately backed up the initiative of President George Bush to hold this meeting, which we regard as a real chance of resuming genuine movement towards peace.

We well know that the preparations for Annapolis proceeded with difficulty. But today we see that the many obstacles in this path have been overcome and joint Palestinian-Israeli understandings have been arrived at. We presume that the joint position now worked out by the sides is a launching pad for the process of negotiations. Their aim is to end the occupation and create a sovereign, viable, integral and democratic Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, ensure the security of Israel and of all its residents, and create conditions for coexistence and peaceful mutually advantageous cooperation between the two states – Palestinian and Israeli – as a major factor of stability in the region as a whole.

The road to that sustainable settlement is not easy. It has to have clear-cut reference points for the timeframe. Very complicated problems of a final settlement must be solved – those of borders, Jerusalem, refugees. Of fundamental importance is the confirmation here in Annapolis that we will be doing this on the basis of the rules and principles of international law – UNSC resolutions 242, 338 and 1397, and the Middle East Roadmap, which was unanimously confirmed in the Security Council’s resolution 1515, adopted on Russia’s proposal, and includes a reference to the Arab Peace Initiative.

We, for our part, will be working to encourage all the parties to seek consensus. In the first place, this concerns the Palestinians. They badly need an intra-national dialogue, and it has to commence as soon as possible, and we are all duty-bound to help them. This problem can’t be solved by force or sanctions. It is necessary to restore the harmony of Palestinian power structures, ensure a stable and effective vertical of power, primarily in the area of security, and return to the concept of a government of national unity. Otherwise it will be difficult to realize the accords reached in Annapolis and even more so – to move further ahead.

The Palestinian-Israeli track, undoubtedly, is the chief one. We attach special significance to regular contacts. We hope that the mechanism of negotiations which Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, with the participation of George Bush, have agreed upon will be effective. But work in this direction must also receive the support of all the neighbors of Israel and the Palestinians and other countries of the region. Ultimately – a broader negotiation process will have to be launched which would encompass all aspects of Arab-Israeli settlement. That’s why we welcome the inclusion of Syria and Lebanon in the agenda of today’s forum and are glad that they have sent their representatives to it.

It is crucial that new international meetings will follow Annapolis. In fact, this is fully in accord with the Roadmap. Such meetings – and we suggest convening the next one in Moscow in several months’ time – could, on the one hand, assess what has been done since Annapolis, outline further steps on the Palestinian-Israeli track, and on the other – prepare the ground for resuming talks on Syrian and Lebanese settlement and on ways of solving the problem of the Golan Heights and other concurrence issues in relations between Syria, Lebanon and Israel.

We regard preparations for the Moscow meeting as an important stage in ensuring a continuity and building on collective work with the participation of all the directly involved parties, the Quartet, the League of Arab States and the Group of Eight. The consolidation of efforts and the strengthening of trust could also facilitate considering certain questions associated with the multilateral direction of the peace process which was begun in Moscow in 1992.

It is our common ultimate aim to seek to ensure that the settlement process acquires a comprehensive, irreversible character and opens the prospect for the convocation of a full-scale peace conference in the interests of peace and stability in the Middle East.

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