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  Monday, September 16, 2019
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Russia hopes an upcoming ministerial meeting of the Middle East "quartet" will help get Palestinian-Israeli negotiations back on track
Russia hopes an upcoming ministerial meeting of the Middle East "quartet" will help get Palestinian-Israeli negotiations back on track, a Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday. "Given the current situation, the meeting is highly important as it may help find real ways toward resuming negotiations," said the ministry's special envoy to the Middle East, Sergei Yakovlev. He said the agenda for the meeting - due to be held in New York May 9 - was being drafted in the light of escalated tension in the region after the most devastating terrorist attack in the last 18 months left nine people dead and about 30 injured in Tel Aviv Monday. As well as Russia, the quartet includes the United States, UN, and EU. Extremist Palestinian group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack, carried out by a 16-year-old Palestinian suicide bomber. Yakovlev said it was too early to make any forecasts, because Israel still has to form a government after March's parliamentary elections. He added there was no evidence that radical Islamist group Hamas, which won parliamentary elections in Palestine in January, had responded to the quartet's demand for it to acknowledge Israel's right to exist and cease violent attacks, thereby complying with the former administration's commitments to follow the quartet-proposed road map peace plan. Hamas had claimed responsibility in the past for a number of terrorists acts in the region, and is on the list of terrorist organizations both in Europe and the United States. Russia does not classify it as a terrorist group, however, and was the first country to invite its delegation to talks in March, a move that one Israeli politician called a "stab in the back". Yakovlev said that certain positive shifts had been made. The program that Hamas proclaimed after the elections was less radical than the movement's previous charter, he said. Although Russia's quartet partners said there had been no sufficient progress, Yakovlev called for a consistent stepwise advance, given small chances for a breakthrough in the process.
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