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  Monday, March 30, 2020
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Russia will back the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in their efforts
Russia will back the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in their efforts to reach a peace deal, Russia's outgoing president said on Friday.

Vladimir Putin, back in Moscow after visits to Libya and Sardinia, met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the presidential residence. Putin said that Russia welcomed joint peace efforts of Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and "will support them in every possible way."

Russia, a member of the Quartet of Mideast mediators, plans to host a peace conference in June, as a follow-up to last November's U.S.-hosted Middle East peace talks.

Putin first voiced the idea of holding a Mideast peace conference in the Russian capital in 2005, and received the backing of several Arab countries prior to the Annapolis talks.

Abbas said expects major breakthroughs to be reached at the Moscow conference.

"We believe the Moscow conference will be a success, and progress will be made in the Mideast settlement," the Palestinian leader told Putin.

Abbas had said on Thursday that several barriers continue to block the implementation of commitments made in Annapolis.

The Annapolis summit saw a resumption of talks between the Palestinian National Authority and Israel after a seven-year hiatus. The sides pledged to do everything possible to draft a peace settlement by the end of 2008, as well as to come to an agreement on the form of a future independent Palestinian state.

Israel announced a tender earlier on Friday for the construction of 100 houses in Jewish settlements on the West Bank, despite provisions of the roadmap for peace banning settlement activity in Palestinian territories.

Abbas' Fatah party controls the West Bank after being ousted by the hard-line Islamic group Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and some EU states, from the Gaza Strip in a bloody conflict last June.


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