Russian FM Igor Ivanov Discusses Middle East with UN's Kofi Annan
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stressed the need to pursue peace in the Middle East during a telephone conversation, the ministry said Saturday.
Annan contacted Ivanov late Friday to discuss Russia's achievement in brokering a conversation between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who was in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ivanov and Annan "stressed the importance of putting into full practice the positive steps" taken Friday by Barak and Arafat, to ease the critical situation in the region, a Russian foreign ministry statement said.
During the Russian leader's Kremlin meeting with Arafat, Putin managed to extract a pledge from the Palestinian leader and Barak that the two sides would work together to end almost two months of fighting that has left some 280 people dead.
Putin took the tattered Middle East crisis in his hands Friday by presenting a new Russian proposal to the warring parties, in an attempt at raising Russia's waning influence in the region, which is a co-sponsor of the peace process.
The Israeli embassy said Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami would be discussing Russia's proposals in Moscow next week, which according to diplomatic sources cited by ITAR-TASS could be as soon as Monday.
His counterpart, Ivanov, is currently in Berlin, and due to leave for Vienna on Sunday. He is expected back in Moscow on Tuesday -- MOSCOW (AFP)
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