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Livni continues Bush's course in Moscow

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MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti commentator Maria Appakova) - The visit of Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to Moscow can by right be called the continuation of the recent Mid-Eastern tour by George W. Bush.

This is no surprise since positions of Israel and the United States (that is, Bush personally) coincide on many issues, in particular on the prospects of Arab-Israeli settlement and Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The only difference is that during the Moscow talks the sides discussed not only international problems but also different aspects of bilateral cooperation. One of the most important achievements is the agreement on visa-free travel. The Russian and Israeli foreign ministers said that the work has been done and they only have to go through some formal procedures.

Livni also met with Speaker of the Federation Council Sergei Mironov and gave a lecture at the Diplomatic Academy to familiarize the Russian public with the Israeli position on the most urgent international issues. It would seem that she did not say anything new about Iran and Mid-Eastern settlement but it is important that she spoke in Moscow, where approaches to the problems are somewhat different.

Russia has said more that once that peace in the region is impossible without settlement in Palestine and Lebanon. But the Israelis are urging the world community to conduct dialogue only with the moderates, while exerting pressure on the radicals. Moreover, Israel has proposed an international code to bar extremists from taking part in elections. This would prevent the world community from being in a situation which emerged after the victory of Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) in the Palestinian parliamentary elections in January 2006, and bar the radical Hezbollah from the Lebanese government and parliament.

In theory, this is a reasonable proposal. No normal government would like extremists and terrorists to participate in elections, but in practice it remains to determine who should be qualified like that. Some will fight with political rivals under the banner of anti-terrorist struggle, whereas others will refuse to qualify a political movement as terrorist. In the meantime, opinion of other countries on this score may be dismissed as interference in internal affairs.

The reality is such that despite the conflict between Hamas and the moderate Fatah and the Lebanese political crisis, no Arab leader (including Palestinian and Lebanese ones) will dare officially call their resistance movements terrorist - at least until the Arab nations make peace with Israel. Israel, the United States or Europe may not like it, but it remains a fact.

After Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip last June, President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Mahmoud Abbas called their representatives "terrorists and murderers", and refused to conduct dialogue with them. But his position only seemed to coincide with that of Israel and the West. Neither he, nor his supporters have renounced the ideas of resistance. They remain sacred to the Arab majority.

For this reason, the Israeli proposals are not likely to be welcomed in the Middle East. Moscow's mediation on this issue would probably be useful, all the more so since it knows how to approach both the extremists and the pragmatics. Tentative compromise solutions may be drafted during the preparations for the Mid-Eastern meeting, which the Russian diplomats are hoping to hold in Moscow. However, the situation in the region keeps going from bad to worse and the sides may not be ready to search for a compromise.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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