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By Vladimir Isachenkov

Russian lawmaker calls for international buffer force in Middle East

Associated Press, April 1, 2002

MOSCOW - A senior Russian lawmaker called Monday for deployment of an international peacekeeping force in the Middle East, saying that Israel and the Palestinians were unable to end the cycle of violence without outside help.

A cease-fire should be forced on Israel and the Palestinians "through a collective ultimatum from Russia, the United States, Europe and levelheaded Arab states," said Vladimir Lukin, a deputy speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament.

"I believe that the world community should form a group of police forces and dispatch it, as a minimum, to separate the conflicting parties, and, as a maximum, to occupy temporarily and partially the Palestinian territory and some parts of Israel," Lukin said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said last week that the deployment of international peacekeepers would be desirable, but added that it would be impossible without the consent of Israel, which has opposed the move.

Ivanov's Mideast envoy, Andrei Vdovin, and diplomats from the European Union met with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on Monday. Vdovin said representatives of Russia, the United States, European Union and the United Nations would discuss how to arrange a meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the ITAR-Tass reported.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko condemned the latest Palestinian terror attacks Sunday as a "criminal action," but also urged Israel to end Arafat's isolation and withdraw troops from the West Bank.

Israel sent troops Friday to isolate Arafat in his compound in Ramallah and later expanded the offensive to other West Bank towns in what the Israeli Cabinet described as an operation intended to uproot Palestinian terrorism.

"I see no inner resources in either party to solve the problem in the near-future without serious assistance from the world community," said Lukin, who served as Russia's ambassador to the United States in the early 1990s.

The Palestinian ambassador to Moscow, Hairi al-Oridi, urged Russia to make a stronger effort to persuade Israel to end its invasion of West Bank, but added that Moscow had largely been sidelined by the United States.

Al-Oridi, speaking on Echo of Moscow radio, called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to appoint a personal envoy to the region to raise Moscow's profile in Mideast peacemaking. The former presidential envoy, Vasily Sredin, died in January.

Russia is an official co-sponsor of the Mideast peace process launched in 1991 but it has played a far smaller role than the United States.

See also:
Mideast Peace Process

Associated Press, April 1, 2002

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