Russia, Palestinians discuss new Mideast peace talks
AFP, Thursday 22 Aug 2013
Russian FM assures Palestinian negotiator 'Palestinian state' is result desired from peace talks

Russia received the chief Palestinian negotiator with Israel on Thursday, urging the two sides to strengthen trust to build stability in the recently resumed Middle East peace negotiations.

"We understand that you are only at the very start. We want the resumed talks to assume stability," news agencies quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as telling Saeb Erakat at the start of their meeting.

"We want the negotiations to achieve the result that we are all after -- a final settlement, including all the issues concerning final status, so that a Palestinian state emerges that lives in peace and security together with Israel and other nations," Lavrov said.

Russia's top diplomat added that Moscow fully supported Washington's efforts to re-launch the negotiations after a hiatus of nearly three years.

"Considering the lengthy pause we saw in the negotiating process, we find it especially important to strengthen trust between the two sides," Lavrov said.

Palestinians and Israeli officials held their latest talks in Jerusalem on Tuesday after conducting a first round of negotiations on August 14.

No details about the meetings have been disclosed due to a request from Washington for a strict news blackout.

Russia -- a Palestinian ally in the Soviet era that more recently has developed a friendship with Israel -- is a member of the Middle East peace Quartet that along with the United States also includes the European Union and the United Nations.

The long-awaited return to peace talks was overshadowed by a new row over Israeli settlement plans for the occupied Palestinian territories.

Lavrov made no direct mention of the settlement issue but at the same time praised the Palestinians for showing "restraint."

Lavrov also said, "We welcome Israel's decision to release a group of Palestinian prisoners."

Israel freed 26 Palestinians last week -- the first batch of 104 prisoners that the Jewish state has promised to release as a symbolic gesture aimed at easing the path toward talks.