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Palestinian President Abbas to visit Moscow soon

RAMALLAH, March 21 (RIA Novosti) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Friday he plans to pay a visit to the Russian capital, Moscow, in the nearest future.

"This visit will take place very soon," Abbas said following his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Ramallah, in the West Bank.

Lavrov said Russia is actively supporting the talks to restore Palestinian unity, underway in Yemen between Fatah and Hamas. "The absence of Palestinian unity prevents steps toward peace in the region," he said.

Abbas said talks in Yemen's capital Sana started Thursday but have failed to bring any results yet.

"The sides have not agreed yet, but terms for talks have been extended, and tomorrow dialogue will be resumed," he said. "We can't say the talks have failed, and we hope for success."

In June, Islamist group Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip after a series of clashes with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement.

The West Bank is controlled by Abbas and receives financial assistance from the West, while the Gaza Strip is fully isolated and is boycotted by the Palestinian National Administration (PNA), the U.S. and Israel.

Abbas said the PNA backs Russia's initiative to hold an international review meeting on the Middle East. "We have confirmed the need for the review meeting on the Middle East," he said after talks with Lavrov.

The Russian minister said the date for the conference in Moscow will be set soon. "We have held active consultations with Quartet members, the UN and other organizations, and believe it's important to implement preliminary agreements and hold an international meeting in Moscow," he said.

Lavrov said the agenda will focus on ways to implement the Annapolis agreements.

A one-day Middle East conference, which was attended by 44 nations November 27 in Annapolis, produced a joint statement signed by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas, including an agreement to broker a peace deal by the end of 2008.

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