Russia sees international efforts as key to Mideast settlement

MOSCOW, January 5 (RIA Novosti) – Moscow has urged the world community to continue joint efforts in tackling the Middle East crisis under the UN aegis, a Russian deputy foreign minister said on Saturday.

On January 23, the UN Security Council (UNSC) will convene to discuss the situation in the region after the U.S.-sponsored Annapolis Middle East conference, which resulted in an agreement between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President Mahmoud Abbas to resume peace talks, stalled seven years ago.

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Alexander Yakovenko said that the Palestinian donors conference, an international meeting held in Paris on December 17, had clearly shown that the international community is ready to increase financial support to the country.

At the conference, attended by representatives of 90 nations and international organizations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia would render significant financial aid to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).

Yakovenko also said that the UNSC could further assist the peace process in the Middle East, including in Lebanon and Syria.

“We should build up efforts to unlock the process along the Syrian and Lebanese tracks of the Middle East peace process,” he said.

He said that the Russian initiative to hold a Middle East peace conference in Moscow as a follow-up to the Annapolis meeting was still on.

A one-day summit, involving Arabs and Israelis, Mideast mediators, and international organizations, was held in Annapolis, Maryland, on November 27. The event was attended by 44 nations, including 12 Arab states. Iran, which does not recognize the state of Israel, was the only influential Mideast country that did not send its envoy to the summit.

The foreign ministry official added that the role of the UN mission in Iraq should also be strengthened, as the country still faces “an extremely high level of ethnic violence and political tensions.”

“The work of the [UN] mission should be planned in a way that would maximize its advantage of being an impartial mediator, able to work with a broad range of political forces,” Yakovenko said.