Lavrov asks countries to agree on Moscow West Asian peace talks da

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Moscow, May 17 (UNI) Russia has urged the countries set to take part in a West Asian peace conference in Moscow to agree on a timetable for the meeting as soon as possible.

''We will be able to set a timetable only when it will satisfy all the participants, primarily the Palestinians and Israelis,'' Foreign Minister of Russia Sergei Lavrov said here late last night.

Mr Lavrov yesterday returned from his visit to the Urals city of Yekaterinburg following the meetings of Foreign Ministers of the RIC (Russia, India, China) and BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China), in trilateral and quadrilateral formats.

Russia, a member of the Quartet of West Asian mediators, has offered to host a conference in Moscow as a follow up to last November's US-sponsored meeting in Annapolis, Maryland.

The Minister said Russia is ready to host the conference in the nearest future, and has had the backing of the EU, the UN and the United States, but that Tel Aviv has preferred to postpone it.

Israel has repeatedly expressed doubts over the necessity of a West Asian peace conference in Moscow, citing a standing agreement between the Israeli and Palestinian sides to maintain strictly bilateral dialogue to protect them from unwanted outside interference.

''We will certainly not force anybody to act against their will, but we think that delaying this process is rather unreasonable," RIA Novosti news agency quoted him as saying.

The Israeli Ambassador to Russia, Anna Azari said on Tuesday that Tel Aviv was sceptical that direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians would be possible during the proposed Moscow West Asian peace conference.

''We view the past meeting in Annapolis and the future conference in Moscow as support for a West Asian settlement rather than a forum where we could hold negotiations with Palestinians,'' Mr Azari said.

Israel and the Palestinian National Authority pledged in Annapolis last year to resume peace talks, draft a settlement plan by late 2008 and come to terms on the form of a future independent Palestinian state.

However, their talks have so far made little tangible progress.


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