Moscow, Apr 19: Outgoing President Vladimir Putin has said Russia will back Israeli and Palestinian leaders in their efforts to reach a peace deal.
''You are visiting us at a tense moment. The situation is difficult, but we can see that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and you are working on positive trends,'' Mr Putin told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow after his return from the visits to Libya and Sardinia. ''We welcome that and will give you comprehensive support,'' he said.
Russia, a member of the Quartet of West Asia mediators, plans to host a peace conference in Moscow in June, as a follow-up to last November's US-hosted peace talks.
Mr Putin first voiced the idea of holding a West Asia peace conference in the Russian capital in 2005, and received the backing of several Arab countries prior to the Annapolis talks.
Mr Abbas said he was expecting major breakthroughs to be reached at the Moscow conference.
''We believe the Moscow conference will be a success, and progress will be made in the Mideast settlement,'' he told Mr Putin.
Mr Abbas had said on Thursday that several barriers continue to block the implementation of commitments made in Annapolis.
The Annapolis summit saw a resumption of talks between the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Israel after a seven-year interval.
The sides pledged to do everything possible to draft a peace settlement by the end of 2008, and reach an agreement on the form of a future independent Palestinian state.