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Lavrov explores peace options on Mideast trip

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is on a two-day trip to the Middle East to discuss the prospects for peace in the region. He has already met Israel’s President Shimon Peres and his Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Mr Lavrov's visit comes two weeks after the Palestinian faction Hamas took control of Gaza in a bloody dispute with rivals Fatah.

Lavrov will visit the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday to meet with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The status of Russian citizens in the Palestinian Authority will all be discussed at length during Lavrov’s meetings with the Israeli Prime Minister.  So too will recent tensions in the West Bank and the peace process in the region.

Mr Lavrov's visit began with a meeting with his Israeli counterpart. Tzipi Livni emphasised Russia’s role in stabilizing the region.
“I would like to say that this comes at a very crucial time. Russia of course is a very important player in the international community, a member of the quartet. So I see our discussion as very important,” said Ms Livni.
Another issue likely to be raised is the possibility of supplying Russian armoured vehicles to the Palestinian Authority.

According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the country is seriously considering Russia's proposal – which was previously dismissed due to fears that the arms would fall into the hands of Hamas extremists.
“For Israel there must be a partner, a solid responsible partner and we support Mahmoud Abbas’ policy, we support his decisions taken in line with the Palestinian constitution and we would certainly support further development of this process within this framework. We do not want to see a civil war in Palestine,” pointed out Sergey Lavrov.
The Russian Foreign Minister and his Israeli counterpart spoke at length of their joint efforts in evacuating Russian citizens from Gaza. 80 people have already left – but another 120 are still waiting, and both ministers say everything possible is being done to secure their early departure.
No major breakthroughs are expected during Lavrov's visit.  But this is the first trip to the Middle East by the Russian Foreign Minister since the armed conflict between Hamas and Fatah, indicating there may be some hope for progress in resolving the Middle East conflict.

“The events in the Palestinian territories are attracting most of our attention at the moment. We are very grateful to the Israeli government for assisting the evacuation of the Russian citizens from Gaza, and some of them from the West Bank, and we certainly hope that the status of the Russians who live in the Palestinian territories and who depend on Israeli recognition can be resolved. I know that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister are looking into this matter. We would like to see the region peaceful, stable and we fully support Israel's desire to have security,” Sergey Lavrov said.