Putin urges Israel, Palestinians to continue peace process

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday warned Israel and the Palestinians against losing momentum given to the peace process by Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. In letters sent to President Moshe Katzav and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Putin urged them to continue energetic peace efforts and reaffirmed Moscow’s proposal to host an international meeting of experts to discuss further steps in implementing the „road map” peace plan for the region. In a letter to Katzav, Putin said that „without visible changes for the better in the daily life of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the initial euphoria may be replaced by disappointment, something that extremist forces will not fail to take advantage of,” the Kremlin said in a statement. „In this context, guarantees of freedom of movement for people and goods on the Palestinian territories, of their contact with the outside world … would accelerate progress along the path to a just and lasting political settlement,” Putin said. Israel clamped long-term travel restrictions on West Bank Palestinians Monday, barring them from major roads amid fears that two drive-by shootings signaled the start of a new round of Palestinian attacks against Israelis in the territory. The Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Moscow „resolutely condemns” the latest terror attacks in the West Bank, but also cautioned Israel against „disproportionate use of force” and any actions that would exacerbate the Palestinians’ condition. In a letter to Abbas, Putin urged him „not to allow a long pause in the peace process, for otherwise the positive dynamism that was achieved with such difficulties might be lost.” Russia is one of the four members of the so-called Quartet of international mediators that drafted the „road map” peace plan. The ohers are the United Nations, the United States and the European Union.